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Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

The November Man

James Bond without the Gadgets

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Pierce Brosnan just can’t get enough spy games. The former James Bond returns to the glamorous world of espionage and foreign intrigue in The November Man. Based on the novels by Bill Granger, The November Man moves its thin, increasingly preposterous plot from point to point with swift efficiency, even as the expected twists multiply.

The story? It suffices that suave CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Brosnan), living in idyllic retirement in a Swiss resort town, is called back to service on an errand as personal as it is professional. Caught between Russian baddies and CIA baddies, he uncovers the sinister ties between world power factions. There is a blustering Russian politician, a war criminal from the Chechen uprising, with an eye on his country’s presidency; a mystery missing refugee girl who knows too much; a professional killer reminiscent of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but without the tattoo; and a father-son-like rivalry between Devereaux and his former agency acolyte, David Mason (Luke Bracey).

The rivalry gets bad. Mason is ordered by CIA headquarters to kill the mentor who let him down. The November Man’s most amusing moments come down to a taunting generational rivalry as Devereaux out-drives and outwits Mason on the twisting streets of Belgrade, where most of the action is set.

But The November Man wants to be a serious thriller with messages about the pervasive surveillance state, international corruption and crimes against women perpetrated during armed conflicts. Secondary characters bark lines such as “We have confirmation” or “Rendezvous with the extraction team in four minutes” as they glare at images transmitted from drones. Cars explode into fireballs and the stars walk away unscathed.

Brosnan is the only reason for watching. He is dashing and looks handsome pointing a gun (or wearing a Kevlar vest). He lives well with a touch of class, even as he kills. Devereaux is Bond without gadgets.