Wednesday, 5 November 2014

SHORT REVIEW: The November Man (2014)

This short review appears on The Upcoming here.

The November Man is a spy thriller with Pierce Brosnan, who obviously wants to try out his own darker version of Bond without getting sued. The film is based on the seventh instalment of a novel series by Bill Granger and there is apparently a sequel already on the way.

Brosnan is Peter Devereaux, an aging secret agent who is called back into action by his old boss Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) to ensure the safe extraction of Natalia Ulanova (Mediha Musliovic), a secretary of the future Russian president Federov (Lazar Ristovski), who knows something that Federov does not want revealed. Olga Kurylenko, playing committed social worker Alice, gets shoehorned into the film too.

The film disappoints almost immediately. There have been few decent action films this millennium (the first three Bourne films are all that spring to mind) and The November Man seemed to be offering a dopey but fun throwback ‘90s film. But, unfortunately, the film is humourless and painfully clich├ęd from the start. It is po-faced throughout, leaving the actors desperately trying to make it all seem worth caring about, and when the plot kicks in, it is either incompressible or ridiculous or both. When you finally find out the significance of the title, it is so stupid that you wonder why no one stopped it.

Roger Donaldson directs in an uninterested, slapdash fashion. The final scene is a great example of a filmmaker not in control of his medium – it just does not work. He injects a few splashes of bloody violence in an effort to liven things up, but it is clear he couldn’t care less.

There is one half-decent idea about there being so many spies running around that no one knows who is a friend and who is an enemy, but the film does absolutely nothing with it. The only other thing that is decent about the film is that it suggests that the CIA are actively involved in war crimes and is, in very general terms, evil. It is nice to see mainstream films in which the CIA are the villains but the film just does not care enough to be truly committed to this point, or any other.

Bill Granger wrote the November Man novels during the Cold War, but that is not the reason that this film feels so dated and so tired. It is simply down to sheer laziness. Dull, dull, dull.

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