The November Man: a reaction

So THE NOVEMBER MAN is a movie. That much I can feel very confident stating. You might want to know more about it, but having just seen the film,I am not so sure I could tell you much.

Here, in pre-spoiler land, I shall give you my initial reaction without delving too deep into specifics about the story. Later, I will get more specific, but I promise to clearly delineate that I am getting spoilery.

My basic reaction after walking out of the theater was, “Huh?” The main story did seem to come to its conclusion, but so much was left hanging to the side that the ending felt insufficient to the task. (I cannot say much about it here, but I’ll day more in the spoiler section.)

THE NOVEMBER MAN seems to bill itself as an action spy thriller, but it is mostly an action movie with vague espionage themes. Everything is either an explosion / murder / sex scene, or something that is intended to set up the next explosion / murder / sex scene.

That may sound like I’m against having that sort of thing, but it is fine if it serves a purpose in the movie rather than spectacle. When a sex scene only titillates, I actually feel a little insulted.

That aside, the story was weak and predictable. Its foreshadowing crossed the line into blatant telegraphing of each twist and reveal. The characters and concepts were at least sort of interesting but felt swept under the rug in order to get a few more casualties in the runtime.

I would be more forgiving of the weak plot if the movie was a little more fun, but too much seemed forced for me to really get into it. All in all, I suppose it is fine for a single viewing, but none aside from some Pierce Brosnan fanatics will see this as an essential addition to their movie collection.

Now, to the part where I start talking specifics.

Any who wish to avoid spoilers, stop reading here. (And, in fact, I recommend you also do not watch the trailers and skip the first fifteen minutes of the movie, too.)

Last stop before we arrive at Spoiler Station.

Okay. Now that all those Other People have departed, those that have not seen THE NOVEMBER MAN. You people who just do not mind some revelations about the story are, of course, welcome as well.

Let’s get right to it. The story is a loosely cobbled together exploration of espionage movie tropes. The grizzled master spy is brought out of retirement for One Last Mission, but before long, he is Drawn Back In to the World He Left Behind. Someone is Lying, and the only people he can trust are the people he knows he cannot trust under any circumstances.

Believe it or not, I’m okay with that plot concept in general, because there are some interesting avenues that can be explored in that area. The important thing here, though, is a character we want to see succeed in this journey. This so-called ‘November Man’ is not really a likeable person. The only thing we get is that he is supposedly quite competent at his job (though it felt like it was more people saying that rather than its seeing it). Eventually, a sympathetic angle is added: he has a daughter and she Is Important To Him, but it felt too little, too late.

The eventual villain is, surprise of surprises, the One We Trusted All Along. And even that is fine, I guess, for they at least did a fair job of changing my initial bland reaction to one of mild disdain. The problem I had was the way the red herring villain, the Potentially Evil Politician, once revealed to be no more important than an assistant manager to the team behind the current debacle, disappears. Vanished, gone, is Mr. Weinstein, never to be mentioned again.

Weinstein the Politician is not the only one to slip into the ether. A romantic interest of the younger spy seems poised to play a significant role in the character development of maybe both the main male leads. (Our young agent, wild stallion that he is, apparently managed to seduce this woman by walking by her in the hallway without speaking to her for weeks on end. The cad!)

But at the first threat that anyone could be happy in Pierce Brosnan’s presence, he holds her hostage and presents the woman as the focal point of a new lesson: don’t get attached. Or something. Old Spy cuts the poor lady’s femoral artery before retreating, an injury that can quickly lead to death if not treated basically immediately. We see her loaded into an ambulance, Young Spy looking pensive, and she, too, fades into the mist. Never mentioned again. I guess Young Spy learns quickly.

Another character that slips into obscurity is the female agent who temporarily takes over command of the operation when things go wrong. She is, however, sexually harassed and then put in her place by a sharp scolding and told to go sit at her desk, which is the last we see of her.

Despite all my gripes, THE NOVEMBER MAN had a lot going for it. Conceptually, it could have been interesting but it has the feel of too many cooks in the metaphorical kitchen. The story was all over the place and never fully accomplished whatever it set out to do.

I guess I do not wholly regret watching it, for it was entertaining enough in its own right, but it made me miss the good ol’ days of espionage movies that could balance exciting action, tightly woven plot, and interesting, compelling characters.

Leave a Reply