By Shane M. Dallmann
In 1999, CIA agent/trainer Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) resigns his position and drops his trainee Mason (Luke Bracey) after a protection assignment goes disastrously wrong. Fourteen years later, Devereaux is pressed back into action as the only man who can possibly extract a valuable source of information from hostile territory. This leads to another encounter involving multiple fatalities, leaving one survivor on each side. Guess who. Owing to the initial shock of recognition, each one lets the other walk away… this time. Stage set.
I could go on to provide far too many details regarding the social worker (Olga Kurylenko) who holds a vital key to the situation; the implications of a long-ago Chechen hostility; the relentless, athletic female Russian assassin on everybody’s trail, etc. etc., but why should I prevent anyone from merely letting the series of plots, counterplots, crosses and double-crosses play out?
The cast is excellent throughout; and Brosnan scores in particular by NOT lazily reprising his Bond mannerisms even when he’s called upon to say and do certain similar things–Brosnan sets the tone of THE NOVEMBER MAN at an early stage when confronted with photographs of the dead bodies of several of his former colleagues–you see the very real grief cross his face even as he mouths the familiar refrain “They knew the risks.”
When the cat-and-mouse games begin in earnest, a nice touch is provided when Devereaux discovers that Mason never even bothered to change his cell phone number: the teacher and pupil engage in relaxed, real-time conversation and barbs even as they attempt to outwit and destroy each other. And when the action happens, it’s brutal and to the point. Director Roger Donaldson (THE BANK JOB) handles the violence and dry humor equally well and never allows the pace to slacken.
There will be no complaints regarding “formula” from me, and I shamelessly confess that I knew from the moment I saw the first trailer for THE NOVEMBER MAN that it was one I definitely wanted to see. Sure, I was ahead of certain aspects of the game–but I was never completely sure how it would turn out until it actually did so. The promise of a good old-fashioned spy thriller (even if this one WAS based on a book named THERE ARE NO SPIES) still holds plenty of allure; and THE NOVEMBER MAN gave me everything I had hoped for.