This spy thriller is kind of in
the genre of John le Carre’s literary potboilers:
the viewer has to try to piece together a plot
from the seemingly disconnected actions of the characters, and the
viewer’s chase to guess the end-game parallels the characters chasing each
other on the screen. Viewers
who long for clarity and straightforwardness will naturally be frustrated,
but part of the point is that that’s the way it is, anyway, in the shadowy
world of espionage: few
things are clear. And
even fewer are pure.
Pierce Brosnan plays Devereaux,
a supposedly retired CIA operative whose “nom de guerre” was “November
Man,” because after he went through the landscape, everything was dead.
Devereaux himself states that a bullet travels
at 1400 ft. per second, and, particularly in the case of a head shot, death
is not only instantaneous, but painless.
Ostensibly, that was supposed to comfort the
young woman he was trying to protect at the time.
But somehow “this won’t hurt a bit” has
never been very reassuring.
Olga Kurylenko plays Alice, a
convincing Russian expatriate (she’s native Ukrainian) whom everybody is
after at once: not
only the CIA, but also the Russians, who are apparently systematically
trying to eliminate anyone who had any prior history with their new
President-in-Waiting, because, well, apparently he’s had some unfortunate
proclivities in his past, including capturing young teenage girls as a
soldier, and abusing them until he wanted a new plaything.
(Vladimir Putin is a comparative choirboy.)
Oh, and the Russians are also accused of using
operatives disguised as Chechen terrorists to precipitate the conflict that
has now resulted in Russia taking over the Chechen oil fields, all with the
complicity and cooperation of the CIA, no less.
Yes, there’s someone dirty
, and Devereaux is challenged to find that out at the same
time he’s trying to help
run from several sets of attackers, including his former
protégé at the CIA, Mason (Luke Bracey).
Their gamesmanship is definitely part of the
play here, and at one point Devereaux is chiding Mason, after an unguarded
dalliance with his across-the-hall apartment neighbor, about needing to
decide whether he’s a human being or a killer of human beings; you can’t
be both. And
maybe he’s preaching to himself there, as well.
Yes, we have gratuitous
violence, with hapless henchmen dropping like, well, somebody got the drop
on them. We
also have some gratuitous sex and nudity, which is actually kind of unusual
these days in action films.
We’re definitely traversing on the seamier
side of living, despite the high-tech weaponry and space-age gizmos:
this is an underworld where mean people play
for keeps. There
is rarely any quarter asked, even more rarely granted.
Sure, Pierce Brosnan is a little
long in the tooth to be so invincible, still (though we veteran moviegoers
still appreciate his tongue-in-cheek James Bond portrayals).
But here he’s not entirely a sympathetic
character, which makes his insouciance more palatable.
The real difficulty is that it’s difficult to
find anyone to root for in this film, what with the brazenly cynical
pronouncement from within the bowels of the CIA that what we’d really like
to do is unite the Europeans against the Muslims.
Just what we need: another Crusade.
As if we didn’t learn our lessons from the
last time we cloaked naked political ambition in the supposedly holy
vestments of religious fervor.
Those of us who actually attempt to represent
Christianity to a skeptical culture will quickly find abhorrent the
inference that it’s all about Us Against The Heathen.
Haven’t we learned anything in 1,000 years?
Well, at the very least, we’ve
learned how to make snappy movies.
“November Man” is one of them.
Just don’t expect either clarity or purity.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,