Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The November Man

I've always been a fan of spy films. No matter what the era (although lets be honest, the Cold War is the best era for this shit, right?) I've always enjoyed them. From films like the Bourne trilogy, Mission Impossible and, of course, James Bond, they're always my go-to choice for smart fun, cool gadgets, bad dudes with Russian accents and badass women (also with Russian accents) that kill guys in super sexy ways. The James Bond film series were the best at that back in the day, and one of my favourite Bond's was Pierce Brosnan. Starting off with one of the best Bond films, Goldeneye, he ended his role of 007 with the worst one ever, Die Another Die. So when I heard about Brosnan starring in a film about an aged spy returning to the fold, my nostalgia goggles fogged up. Watching The November Man is a little like watching Brosnan's Bond getting back into the game, but sadly beyond that the film has very little to offer.

Directed by Roger Donaldson and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes The November Man, a film that sits firmly into that grey area between terrible and great: the elusive area known simply as “meh”. After retiring from the life of espionage, ex-spy Peter Devereaux sets up a little coffee shop in  Switzerland. However, as expected from every single “Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in" flick, Devereaux is contacted by his former bosses to help sort out a sticky situation. There's a woman in Russia who, thanks to posing as a presidential aide, has information pointing to a former Russian Army General being guilty of war crimes. As the net is closing around her she wants out, and it's Devereaux's job to escort her out of Russia. But that's easier said than done, as on top of a bunch of evil Russians to contend with, Devereaux must also go head-to-head with his former protégé, Mason. This classic spy story does entertain, but the main problem lies in the fact that it doesn't really start getting interesting until the second half of the film.

The best part about The November Man are it's two leads, Pierce Brosnan and Olga Kurylenko. Brosnan essentially just plays an older depressed version of James Bond that doesn't have women on his lap 24/7. His character is much realer than the caricature of James Bond too, and at the age he's at Brosnan sinks into the character with exceptional ease and confidence. Then we have the always great Olga Kurylenko. She's incredible watchable, always covers a vast array of film genres and types and does a pretty solid job here. Everyone else is, well, dull. From the CIA hard-ass who wants Devereaux back in the game even though he's in his 60's, to the cookie cutter baddies who mutter random words in Russian, it's all pretty by-the-numbers. That works in the conventional and simple world of James Bond, but The November Man tries to be more adult, serious and modern compared to the Bond series. It does succeed, but in doing so loses all the wit, fun thrills and charm a spy film should have.

Action scenes, like the actors who inhabit the film, are pretty middle of the road. But they cover all the typical scenes- slow-motion explosions, people walking away from said explosions, various car chases, hand-to-hand fights filmed with a shaky camera and loads of people getting shot in the face. It's never particularly thrilling, but it did keep my attention until the end. What really irks me about The November Man is that it had so much potential, whereas ultimately it's just a reminder of what might have been. Though they are great in the film, the fact that Brosnan played James Bond and Kurylenko played a Bond girl previously doesn't help. Because they were both in Bond films you can't help but want to watch a Bond film instead of this. It's not terrible, but The November Man is fun yet entirely bland.

The November Man shouldn't have come out of retirement and gets a 2/5.


Denis Murphy 

November Man at CeX

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