Once upon a time, Pierce Brosnan played that world-famous British secret agent known as Bond, James Bond. He played that role in four films; the last time was in 2002’s Die Another Day. Since then he’s worked in a large number of films – and has been on-screen EVERY year since he and Bond went in different directions.
Once upon a time, Roger Donaldson was an A-List director. Donaldson worked with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins in The Bounty (1984), with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman in No Way Out (1987), Tom Cruise in Cocktail (1988), Robin Williams in Cadillac Man (1990), which were followed by White Sands, The Getaway, and Species. Donaldson and Brosnan worked together in Dante’s Peak (1997) – a film best described as a critical disaster of a volcano movie, in which the volcano out performed the actors.
Donaldson’s career took a definite down turn following Dante’s Peak. In the 17 years since 1997 Donaldson has directed just five feature films, which brings us to The November Man which was adapted from the Bill Granger 1987 novel called There Are No Spies from his book series, The November Man, and produced by Brosnan’s production company Irish Dream Time.
Simply, Brosnan is back into his secret agent mode and as the film begins we learn he’s an ex-CIA agent, now retired and living in Montenegro, who is asked, by his former handler, John Hanley
(played by Bill Smitrovich) to go into Moscow and ex-filtrate a woman who’s been in the employ of a leading Russian politician/mobster who could become the next President of Russia. Simultaneously, she’s been serving as the eyes and ears for the CIA.
As the ex-filtration plays out with bullets, drones with cameras, and an automobile chase – we meet other characters, a young CIA agent Danny Mason (played by Luke Bracey), and an even higher senior CIA guy Perry Weinstein who is played by Will Patton. Patton also played in No Way Out back in 1987.
This time, Patton is buried beneath a glaringly obvious wig and huge eyes glasses so much so – that you’ll probably recognize him by his voice before you recognize him visually. And maybe there’s something to way his character simply is in the film and then isn’t. Maybe that’s why I haven’t found even a single picture of him from the film. The above image is a screen capture from the trailer.
The story then takes us to Belgrade, Serbia and most of the film occurs there. It is in the city that we learn of Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko – a former ‘Bond’ girl has the part) who works for a small agency to aid and help girls who have managed to break free from the sex traffickers.
That’s about all of the lead-in I can manage without giving away too much of the story.
But you already have plenty. Mix a successful agent with a nasty Russian, this agent’s young protegé, some CIA shenanigans, and a pretty woman, and you have a film that you’ve seen many times before.
While the action is more than just technically acceptable, and Pierce Brosnan can still be convincing, with his hands or an automatic weapon, the film lacks humor, style, and frankly is just another cookie cutter spy thriller. It’s DNA is not the least bit Bondish, or even Bourne-esque – rather it is much more like the Costner flick from earlier this year – 3 Days to Kill.
Brosnan’s character Peter Devereaux likes his spirits in a glass but refrains from smoking. Kurylenko, who did a turn for two seasons on the starz network’s Magic City in 2012 and 2013 is the damsel in distress, and Belgrade is the slightly style-less city where the action occurs. While the film won’t put you to sleep, the are some glaring holes in the plot. Besides that – the film seems a bit dated. I mean when was the last time you saw any one using a mobile phone with a flip-lid cover.
However I can’t bring myself to call this film unrewarding. While I am sure that it won’t gather a whole lot of positive reviews, it can be exciting at times, and at other times you’ll be scratching your head as you wonder why something happened and no answer can be found. But the film is well paced, and there’s more than enough action set pieces to make you forget the plot holes.
While Pierce Brosnan won’t be doing Bond again, his career is still active and going strong. If you remember correctly, the same cannot be said for another former Bond actor, Roger Moore. I’ll rate this one at three-point zero out of five, and call that a bit of a stretch.
Check out the trailer, and keep in mind that this trailer is an extremely well done bit of promotional material. The film will deliver far less than the trailer promises. One last thought – they do get around to ‘explaining’ the title of the film – and we learn that about three-quarters of way in. And once you get it, you will be thinking about the words irony or ironic.