Double Agents and Betrayal

The November Man

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


           
            At the risk of losing any credibility I may have as a critic of movie violence, here’s my admission that I was happily and thoroughly absorbed by The November Man from start to finish. Be warned at the outset that this is an on screen bloodbath rated R for murderous brutality by knife, gun, fists, cars, poles, and a shovel. It is an espionage puzzle whose very ridiculousness allows us to enjoy its convoluted twists and turns.
            Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) and David Mason (Luke Bracey) explode in scene one as CIA handler and agent caught in an operation gone wrong, so wrong that Devereaux leaves the agency. Recalled by agency man Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) to bring an endangered agent in from the cold, Devereaux and Celia (Caterina Scorsone) lead us in a frantic race to the promised safety of the extraction team. When that operation ends in mayhem, Devereaux’s determination turns to steel.
            What’s it all about? Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski) is about to become president of Russia with a hidden past of treachery toward his own country. Who can reveal that secret past? Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko, in a strong, quiet performance) is the key. Pay close attention after Alice and Devereaux team up to expose Federov because the screen fairly explodes with double agentry, betrayal, and brutality. When things seem calm for a few moments, get ready for a dramatic musical surge that always signals a shock.
            Even when things look dire for the person Devereaux is protecting, our hero has a plan: “Go somewhere where no one will find you; use only cash; and wait for this to ring,” he says as he hands her money and a cell phone. Sitting safely in my seat in the audience, it did cross my mind that this is exactly what I would love to have a handsome covert agent say to me some day when trouble threatens.
            Without Pierce Brosnan, this B level movie would have been an exercise in silly excess. But there he is, and this time around, he is creating a strong, though imperfect and damaged character. Watch his face closely in an early scene when he is shown a picture of the murdered woman his character loved some years ago.
            Brosnan wins the audience not by being a moralizer but a justice seeker. No laws or CIA orders will dilute his revenge. He is thoroughly convincing as an agent trained in skills that violate his own value system, but loyalty and love will propel him to mete out brutal vengeance in retaliation for injustice. His weather beaten face describes for us exactly the horror he feels when innocents are killed, and we understand completely that Devereaux is an alcoholic ex-agent denied any outside life by his chosen profession. With this film, Brosnan becomes the grand old man of espionage thrillers – less gimmicky than Bond, more human, more alone. It’s a crown well deserved.
 


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The November Man
Word count : 495
Studio : Das Films, Envision, Irish Dream Time
Running time : 1:48
Rating : R


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