I will freely admit to a deep love of James Bond, his life, his work, and his movies (fine, yes, I understand that he’s not real, but he’s real to me). The point is this, when I watch a movie or television show that has some sort of Bond connection, I may be somewhat predisposed towards having an affinity for it.
I have to say, I am a big fan not just of Bond, but of Brosnan as Bond. He is my Bond. I watched Bond movies before Brosnan took on the role, and “Licence to Kill” was my first in theater Bond experience, but “GoldenEye” came along at just the right moment for me. Brosnan was suave, debonair, charming, and deadly. It was a high tech and low tech adventure; spun the opening credits in a slightly different way; and offered a modern, post-USSR, scenario. From the opening jump off the dam, I was hooked.*
*People like to suggest that the Daniel Craig era gave Bond a much needed reboot. I don’t want to take anything away from the Craig films (he really is quite excellent in the role and the reboot has been great), but the Brosnan ones performed very well at the box office, and he shouldn’t be given short shrift.
There is a moment in “GoldenEye” when Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) asks our hero (Pierce Brosnan’s first outing), “If all those vodka martinis ever silence the screams of all the men you’ve killed… or if you find forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women for all the dead ones you failed to protect.” In truth, 006 doesn’t really ask it as much as he says it to point out to Bond some of 007’s failings and coping mechanisms, but it’s a great moment in the movie that sticks with you after it’s over.
So, when I watch “The November Man” and see Pierce Brosnan’s Peter Devereaux drink heavily after failing to protect someone, well, it is almost a perfect nod to 007. The actor has done more secret agent/assassin/hitman movies than just Bond ones, but every time he does any movie where he needs to pick up a gun and kill someone, the comparisons must be drawn, and the drinking in the movie only enhances that.
Brosnan is a brutal CIA killer in the film, one called out of retirement for one last job, a job he has to do because of a personal connection. It is something of a well-worn way to start the tale, but I think that the Bond baggage and nods help make it work. It isn’t that Brosnan is playing a slightly older Bond here, but rather he’s offering a take on the way Bond’s life could have been if things had gone differently.
“November Man” works rather well despite its not being terribly new or different. Devereaux plays a cat-and-mouse game with a younger version of himself as David Mason (Luke Bracey), an operative Devereaux trained, is sent to get the ex-agent, and watching the two guys go back and forth is enjoyable even if everyone in the audience knows where things are going to end.
Olga Kurylenko, another Bond vet but not from Brosnan’s era, is Alice, and the key to the mission in question. I don’t always buy or enjoy some of the ways her character is portrayed, but I really do like the fact that when it comes down to it, she takes matters into her own hands rather than letting someone else fight her battles.
Brosnan is charming and charismatic on screen, even as a killer, and with few exceptions, as I said, a killer is what he is in “November Man.” Actually, I find that exception thing rather odd and one of the more disappointing moments in Roger Donaldson’s film.
We see Devereaux shoot people repeatedly, both the pulling of the trigger and the result, but towards the end of the film, a choice is made on one of the deaths—that of a US government agent—to have it occur off-screen. Is it because this agent has done nothing wrong and it would therefore hurt our opinion of Devereaux? That is my best guess – the movie is winding down, we’re supposed to feel more for this guy, and seeing another shooting would hurt our opinions of him.
While, as I say, this is the best explanation I have, I don’t think it works. If we didn’t regularly see bullets hit bodies in the film, I would think differently, but as we see it happen on more than one occasion, it is actually disconcerting to not see it here (what that says about the movie, my view of the world, and the general ways in which people react to violence is for a different time).
It is a briskly paced film, and while it falls just short of the 110 minute marks, plays out much faster than that. As with “GoldenEye,” it takes today’s geopolitics into consideration. It promotes a worldview where there are many shades of grey and where friends quickly become enemies and vice versa.
This last bit is, again, nothing new.
Perhaps one of the reason I feel it all works as well as it does is the sense of comfort it offers with Brosnan as our (anti-)hero. Seeing him go out on a quest for vengeance and to right the wrongs of this world is something I would pay to see over and over again.
After all, Brosnan is my Bond.
“The November Man” is currently out on home video.
Photo credit: Fox Home Entertainment