MIDDLE AGE MUSINGS  >  Movie Review of the Week: “The November Man”

Movie Review of the Week: “The November Man”

Movie Review of the Week: “The November Man”
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BY ALISON BAILES

Zipping between Montenegro, Switzerland, Serbia and Russia before you have time to say “90s espionage thriller”, this worn bundle of spy cliches races through its paces with minimum originality but lots of energy and pluck. Fans of the genre, or fans of Pierce Brosnan may get a kick out of seeing him handle a gun and a female tag-along with the same aplomb he brought to his years playing the suavest of British secret agents 007.

The refreshing thing here is that Brosnan’s character Peter Devereaux is not as gentlemanly as James Bond and Brosnan brings an earthy lassitude to the role. His face shows signs of weariness even though his instincts are still razor sharp. Devereaux also doesn’t seem to be fighting on any particular side but his own. … his loyalties are strictly personal and vengeful.

Devereaux springs from the novels of Bill Granger and is firmly rooted in a bygone era despite the efforts of director Roger Donaldson and writers Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek to bring him into 21st century relevance. Devereaux is ex-CIA, drawn out of retirement by his former handler to help the agency bring in a spy from the cold. The double agent in question Natalia also happens to be Devereaux’s ex-love, and when the operation goes sour, Devereaux wants answers. Can he trust his former boss? And why is his former partner Mason (Luke Bracey) out to kill him?

With serpentine twists and fast-moving action, Devereaux is launched into a “man against the machine” war. Now the CIA wants him dead and so do the Russians, particularly a Moscow businessman turned political aspirant Federov (Lazar Ristovski) who is covering up his shady past with the help of a particularly bendy assassin Alexa (Amila Terzimehic). Devereaux is led to Alice (Olga Kurylenko), an aide worker who seems to know more than she is letting on and together they race through the streets of Belgrade, dodging bullets and mercifully not falling into bed together. It seems a shame that Devereaux’s peer in age and experience (the aforementioned double agent played briefly by Mediha Musliovic) wasn’t kept around longer, but clearly the filmmakers saw the need to pair Mr. Brosnan up with the younger and more telegenic Kurylenko.

Recognizing that Brosnan and Kurylenko might stretch the bounds of credulity as a romantic couple, Donaldson throws in a love interest for Mason and there’s a gauzy sex scene between the hunky agent and his comely neighbor. It is totally redundant and serves only to underscore Devereaux’s ruthlessness when he uses the girl to force Mason’s hand. Mason, played by Australian actor Bracey is easy on the eye but doesn’t register as a charismatic opponent for Devereaux.

That might be the problem with this zigzagging thriller: Brosnan doesn’t have one clear opponent. Is it Mason? or his former CIA handler? or Federov? All of the above? As we learn the dark secrets of Federov’s past, the film attempts a weighty, topical denouement. With the war in Chechnya and U. S. oil interests suddenly dragged into the plot, “The November Man” struggles to be an Important Movie with something to say. When it was simply a matter of watching Pierce Brosnan face off against Russian oligarchs it was quite fun. When it aims higher, it falls quite short.

 

 

 

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