The November Man - Wrong month and wrong year for this film - 1.5 stars

Pierce Brosnan has played the most recognised spy in cinematic history, but can this seasoned actor introduce a new action hero? With the recent Jason Bourne style films, should Brosnan be getting back into the spy game? 

Walking into the cinema...

Sometimes it is good to go back to 'old-school' in film making. The November Man seems to represent a film from the 1980's, cold war era. Even with the current tensions between the US and Russia, will it come off as retrospective or a tired message from the past?

Cinematic value: 2 stars        Family value: 1 star
Overall rating: 1.5 stars. 

         The November Man is considered by many of it's fans to be a 'down to earth' story of espionage. It is based There are No Spies (1987) novel by Bill Granger. A book that has been considered for film production since 2006.  (James Bond films) leads the cast of this post-cold war story. He plays Peter Devereaux, a successful ex-CIA operative who has worked through different political regimes, but is attempting to live a retired existence. Then he is pulled back into the espionage world by his former boss, Hanley () for a Russian operation that has personal motivations ad implications. While in Russia, the operation goes wrong and Peter has to investigate who is behind the betrayal of the team. The story turns into a cat and mouse game between Devereaux and his former trainee, David Mason (Australian ). Mason strives to track down his mentor and a beautiful social worker, Alice Fournier (), who seems to possess the information that could bring down the leadership of the Russian government. He attempts to determine which side of the fight Devereaux is on and ultimately, which side he is truly fighting. The November Man works through the the sorted web of international espionage and personal relationships and as with most spy stories it blurs the lines of allies and enemies. Ultimately it shows that one of the greatest evils is the betrayal of someone closest to you. 
        Director  (The Bank Job, Thirteen Days) gets the opportunity to  collaborate with Bronson again. (Dante's Peak) He has been given the task of taking a story from the 80s, a film star from the 90s and trying to give both a modern spin. It is refreshing to have an action film that is not heavily reliant on CGI for its explosions and action sequences, but the retro-style special effects do not help to freshen the story. The screenplay seems to be a retreading of familiar story. There are cleaver turns in the plot that give a limited amount of intrigue, but it is not enough to hold the needed tension for an effective espionage films. The story was a throw back to the 80's, but unfortunately the pacing has the same 80s feel. Interestingly, Donaldson introduced Kevin Costner as an action star in 1987's No Way Out and succeeded in developing the needed tension for a political/espionage thriller. But with The November Man, he does not seem to be able to successfully give a much needed modern twist of the spy genre. 
       Pierce Brosnan represents a different era of action star. As James Bond, he showed his ability to carry spy films, but in the Daniel Craig/Jason Bourne era of spy films, Brosnan seems to walk through the film as a grumpy old man who desires to be in a different film. Donaldson attempts to balance Brosnan with a potential younger action star, Luke Bracey, but but misses the mark. Bracey fails to take the action baton from Brosnan. He is supposed to help in showing a representation of two eras of action stars, but fails to outshine Brosnan. The story does fail his character and leaves him as a poor substitute to his once effective mentor. If the film was meant to be a buddy film, it may have had some room to move, but mentor/trainee film both lead characters fail to fulfil their roles. Even with stoic lead characters, the hope for a film like this is the addition of a scrappy support cast.  The cast a script fail in this area and the support falls into cliched caricatures and many just disappear without explanation.  handles the multi-lingual dialogue, but adds no spark to the film. There is an illusion to a relationship between her and the Devereaux character, but the magic never seems to materialise. Besides a few clever plot twists, this film falls into a cliched spy film of days gone by. 
      The November Man tries to hold onto a retrospective view of the great spy films of the past. The old school effects and action sequences had potential, but could not hold up under the pressure of the story telling of the modern cinematic climate. Hollywood's desire to find source material from older book series has a proven track record, but not in this instance. The November Man feels old. The story, the star and the style may have had potential in the '80s or even in the late 90s, but the story does not seem to translate in today's movie climate. 

Family value:
Similar to the many of the films of the 80s, The November Man seems to suffer from excesses without much substance. The antiquated style tries to overcome the lack of originality with high levels of violence, nudity and language. This is not surprising for a spy thriller, but most of these story vehicles seem to be added to add spice to a bland narrative, but merely leave a bitter taste. In an attempt to modernise the tale, there is a side story of child sex abuse. The inclusion of this into the story does make for a detestable villain, but does not add anything to the film. This film understandably deserves caution for viewing.    

Leaving the cinema...
Donaldson seems to be trying for a classic-style spy film, but in the end comes off cliched and lethargic. The acting and film's pacing do not give any fresh ideas or add any nuances to the spy thriller. The November Man comes off as a tired retread of a dated storyline. It dd not depict the Cold War, it just left the audience cold. 

Reel Dialogue: What are the bigger questions to consider from this film? 
1. What does the Bible say about loyalty? (Proverbs 18:24, Titus 3:1)
2. Should I seek revenge myself? (Roman 12:19)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews