Review: THE NOVEMBER MAN (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Review: THE NOVEMBER MAN (2014)

2 stars
2 stars
THE NOVEMBER MAN starts out promisingly but grows progressively lazy and tedious until the disappointing finale.


On the surface, the idea of watching former James Bond Pierce Brosnan (who played the iconic role four times from 1995's GOLDENEYE to 2002's DIE ANOTHER DAY) and one-time Bond girl of 2008's QUANTUM OF SOLACE Olga Kurylenko in a same movie together in an espionage thriller sounds interesting enough. Throw in veteran director Roger Donaldson (reuniting with Brosnan after their previous collaboration in 1997's DANTE PEAK), who is definitely the right man for the job to direct THE NOVEMBER MAN especially given his past experiences with 1987's NO WAY OUT and 2003's THE RECRUIT. While I admit it's nice to see an old-school espionage thriller here, it's too bad that THE NOVEMBER MAN isn't competent enough to prevent this from being a generic kind of genre movie.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Based on the spy novel There Are No Spies by Bill Granger, THE NOVEMBER MAN opens with a prologue in 2008 when veteran CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) and his young protege David Mason (Luke Bracey) are assigned to eliminate an assassin in Montenegro. However, during a chaotic moment, Mason ignores Devereaux's order and caused an innocent young child's death. Five years later, Devereaux has long retired and now living in Switzerland. But it doesn't take long before his former boss John Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) shows up and wants him to extract a Russia-based CIA undercover Natalia Ulanova (Mediha Musliovic), who happens to be Devereaux's lover, after she gains a vital information that will take down the crooked politician Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski). Unfortunately, the extraction goes horribly awry when Devereaux discovers there's another CIA agent assigned to the case and it happens to be his ex-protege, Mason. Complicating the matter is the involvement of the crucial witness named Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko), a social worker who may have several links connected to Federov's crime.

THE GOOD STUFF
 
Director Roger Donaldson certainly knows how to choreograph his action set-pieces that relies more on real stunts than CGI. His direction, at least for the first 40 minutes or so (see "MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)"), is pacey and engaging enough to sustain viewer's interest.

On the technical level, the movie is well framed by cinematographer Romain Lacourbas while the location shots of Montenegro and Serbia are equally first-rate. Marco Beltrami's score is decent enough that suits the tone of an espionage thriller, and John Golbert's clean and cohesive editing ensures that the action can be viewed properly.

No stranger for playing spy character, Pierce Brosnan slips into the role with relative ease and delivers a solid performance as the conflicted veteran CIA agent Peter Devereaux.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)
 
The first 40 minutes or so is exceptionally well paced, brimming with a satisfying amount of action sequences, intrigue and suspense.

THE BAD STUFF
  
After a promising start, it's really baffling to see the rest of the movie starts to nosedive once the plot thickens with too many hidden agendas. Problem is, Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek's adapted screenplay are too vague, yet sketchy that some of the plot holes like the one involving the secret relationship between Devereaux, Natalia and their young daughter are not well-defined.

Then there's the Alice Fournier character played by Olga Kurylenko. She spends most of her time looking like a damsel in distress before her role gets far-fetched all of the sudden when she appears in one scene disguised as a call girl dressing a sexy black tube dress to seduce Federov. It's more of a lame excuse to showcase Kurylenko's photogenic beauty in an obviously gratuitous way possible. The rest of the supporting actors, such as Luke Bracey (who will appear in next year's remake of 1991's POINT BREAK as Johnny Utah) is somewhat bland as Devereaux's former protege-turned-enemy David Mason.

The ending, in the meantime, is the biggest disappointment of all with a sudden twist that reveals one of the characters is a main culprit for the whole conspiracy. The twist is hardly engaging at all, especially after how the narrative is clumsily handled and even the action during the finale is as tedious as it goes.

FINAL WORDS

It's a shame that THE NOVEMBER MAN fails too much to emerge as a potentially well-made espionage thriller. That explained the reason for the movie's financial failure at the US box office last August.

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