‘November Man’ lives up to low bar

November-Man-2014-Poster

(Photo Courtesy of Relativity Media)

Pierce Brosnan is the James Bond with whom we all grew up. Whether it be fond memories of “Goldeneye” or the more repressed memories of “Die Another Day,” a piece of all of us yearns to see the eccentric British man reprise his role as the worldly super agent who always finds himself in the middle of international intrigue. On this note, “November Man” delivers.

Unfortunately, this is one of the few positive things that can be said about the film.

The movie begins with a young couple kissing outside of a café in Spain. The shot cuts to Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) walking toward the table and tossing his sunglasses down as the woman gets up to leave. Devereaux scolds his apprentice, David Mason (Luke Bracey), and bestows some CIA operative wisdom on him. The two go on to escort an ambassador that has a potential hit out on him, Devereaux pulls a bait and switch and exchanges clothes, an armed man approaches, and Mason, who is watching from afar with a sniper rifle fixed on the crowd, lets a round lose that hits a child before being able to follow up with a kill shot on the perpetrator. Devereaux scolds Mason and the two put a halt to their partnership.

All of this happens before the opening credits, and already the audience is introduced to the rudimentary type storytelling that the film has to offer. Old world agent takes young man under his wing, is tough on the young man and is ultimately disappointed.

Devereaux, now retired and running his coffee shop that’s located on some beautiful European coast, gets a drop by from an old CIA friend named Hanley (Bill Smitrovich). Hanley calls on Devereaux to extract an operative that is embedded in the office of a Russian Federation politician named Arkady Federov.

From here, the story goes into several general plotlines of betrayal and espionage that most spy films employ. For the most part, the movie plays as your stereotypical spy movie. It’s a genre piece and probably should be viewed as one, but there are some interesting points of analysis that stand out.

What’s different about this movie is the villain. The villain is a Russian Federation politician whose dirtiest secret is blowing up a building under a false flag in order to justify Russian invasion of Chechnya. Already this is a departure from the usual Islamophobic fear. Instead, the audience is presented with a Russian government official that is seemingly the villain.

By the end of the film, however, a newer fear is revealed — and I think this reveal is what makes this movie an interesting one. Rather than having the villain remain as Federov, it comes out that Hanley was in cahoots and aided the Russian justification of the Chechen invasion.

This revelation is indicative of the modern-day paranoia that Americans are forced to confront as we live in the wake of 50 years of covert CIA operative work that sought to undermine nations and justify invasions.

While I think this use of villains is interesting, it’s not enough to save the movie from being another part of the Hollywood problem: lack of diversity, particularly with regard to minorities and women.

To its credit, the movie does a good job of not going after Muslims for 90 minutes (which is pretty rare these days), but it is completely void of any minority representation. Furthermore, of the three female characters in the film, two of them are MacGuffins, or objects that only exist to propel the plot. The worst case of this is about halfway through the movie. Mason comes home from a long day at the office, finds his neighbor’s cat in his kitchen, returns it and then the two decide to go out to the clubs. All the while, Devereaux is posted up in an apartment across the street waiting for the two to come home. Once getting home, an awkwardly graphic sex scene takes place, and is then followed up with Devereaux taking the girl hostage. After a scuffle, Mason is confronted with the choice of going after Devereaux or waiting to save the girl.

The problem is, the girl is never seen again. Her character as the attractive, naïve neighbor who was interested in the cute guy next door only served the purpose of giving Mason a moral decision to make and to showcase the villainy that Devereaux is capable of, despite acting as the film’s protagonist for most of the picture.

All in all, the movie is a international espionage-action-thriller that sticks to the core strengths the genre was founded on (gadgets, gizmos and guns), but falls short of being much of anything else.

 

Reach the reporter at zjenning@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @humanzane