The November Man waits until just before the very end to explain how Peter Devereaux, an ex-CIA operative on the warpath (played by Pierce Brosnan), earned his chilly nickname. The explanation doesn’t matter—it’s not a very smart epithet anyway, drawing the obvious and correct conclusion that Devereaux is one cold mother.
Regardless, outmanned and outgunned, we, along with Devereaux, have to suffer the most perfunctory sort of bad guy monologue before we inevitably escape with our lives. If only just.
If The November Man is a spy thriller, it’s not my kind of one.
Set almost entirely in Belgrade, Serbia, the movie converges on a corrupt former general Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski) and his potential ascension to the Russian presidency. Seeking to clear any evidence of the atrocities he committed during the Second Chechen War, Federov targets an old flame of Devereaux’s whom the CIA also has a vested interest in. Devereaux himself comes out of retirement only in time to witness her catch a bullet through the windshield of their getaway vehicle.
Luke Bracey plays Mason, a killing hand employed by the CIA who also happens to be Devereaux’s former protege. At one point in the film Mason is praised for his reliance as a “weapon,” but I contend his ‘80s action movie haircut remains by far the most reliable thing about him.
Mixed up in the proceedings is Olga Kurylenko as Alice, who aptly captures the panic of not being able to process things as quickly as those around you, which is a pervasive feeling instilled by The November Man. The plot is nonsensical stuff, its mechanics blunt and stunted as if someone copy-pasted dictionary definitions of stale beer tropes like “gritty,” “edgy” and “morally ambiguous” directly into the screenplay and called it good.
Good, this ain’t.
The movie outstays its welcome early on—while the body count is still in single digits—and if by the end you aren’t begging for it to stop you’re certainly not wondering what it all means.
“They knew the risks,” Devereaux grumbles when confronted about his recently-deceased colleagues. “We all did.”
Reflective of Devereaux’s too-cool-for-spy-school posturing, The November Man doesn’t care what I think of it. In fact, it would probably prefer I didn’t have any thoughts at all.
If only it would leave me alone about it.