WYSIWYG is a design principle where “What You See is What You Get”. The November Man is currently playing in theaters.
The November Man (2014) – Rated R
“An ex-CIA operative is brought back in on a very personal mission and finds himself pitted against his former pupil in a deadly game involving high level CIA officials and the Russian president-elect.”
“Know what we used to call you Peter? The November Man. Cause after you passed through, nothing lived. You were one bleak mother$%^& my friend.”
Obviously it’s a good idea to cast Pierce Brosnan as an aging, retired superspy. There are plenty of people who have missed him as Bond, though Daniel Craig is a fine successor. I am old enough to be a Connery fan but I like Brosnan and he has aged well.
Unfortunately, this is pretty much all you get with The November Man. It is a by-the-numbers spy thriller with Devereaux coaxed out of retirement because a loved one is in danger. A hotshot protege is after him, the agency head wants him dead, and there is an agency contact in the middle. The main problem is that these roles play out exactly as we’ve seen them in many other genre books and films.
Another problem is that the Russian President-elect is basically a cipher here, practically a MacGuffin. I suspect that the screenplay rearranged things around Brosnan and downplayed other parts of the novel, “There are No Spies”, by Bill Granger. Michael Finch (Predators) and Karl Gajdusek (Oblivion) wrote the screenplay.
The cast is a mix of Hollywood types and apparently whoever was available in Serbia. I understand that it is very cheap to film in Eastern Europe but it almost always looks cheap as well (see the fifth Die Hard – or better yet avoid it) and The November Man is not an exception. Will Patton is always a welcome presence but does not have much to do.
Director Roger Donaldson is a competent, if unspectacular, director. He has worked with Brosnan before on Dante’s Peak and showcases him here to good effect. Devereaux’s return after his initial escape is a standout sequence but the rest of the film is fairly routine. The subject matter is unpleasant enough to earn an ‘R’ rating but sanitized enough for viewing audiences. The November Man is rated R for strong violence, including a sexual assault, language, sexuality, nudity, and brief drug use.
This is an easy recommendation if you are a Brosnan fan, otherwise meh.