By Rainey Wetnight
“WHAT DO YOU DO?” -Pierce Brosnan as Peter Devereaux, shouting at his fellow covert agent
Welcome to the grown-up world, Mister Bond. You’ll still find malevolence, mayhem, and gore galore, but no longer will any of your female conquests bear suggestive names revealing their actual purpose. Along with your daily doses of cranial junk food - death, fear and copulation - you’re going to have to choke down vegetables of virtue, moralizing as you’re murdering. Preferably afterward, but you know what I mean.
I am speaking, of course, to you, Pierce Brosnan. You’ve played the iconic role of 007 in four films. Most of them were unintentionally hilarious. We audience members could be forgiven for grinning at your chiseled face being superimposed upon stunt doubles’ heads through the subtle wonders of CGI. As you told the world how you liked your martinis, over and over, we couldn’t help but roll our eyes like you’d roll an olive across a bar counter. We even tried to hide our guffaws until after the ending line in Goldeneye about “debriefing each other”. Now there’s no more time for monkey business. You’re in a different zoo.
Instead of a name pronounceable in macho, monosyllabic grunts, you’re going to have to grapple with the moniker “Peter Devereaux”, coined by Bill Granger. I’m sure you know how to pronounce that first name, but the last one might be a bit of a stretch. Hint: It doesn’t rhyme with “sex”, although there’s plenty of it. I am also sorry to inform you, but the main scene is between your young rival David Mason (Luke Bracey) and a nightclub-loving blonde named Sarah (Eliza Taylor). For you, there’s Alice Fournier (lovely Bond girl Olga Kurylenko). Look, but don’t touch. That would almost be pedophilia at your age, so keep it zipped.
Your present plot is - well, a naturally-convoluted series of plots. Who are the good guys, the bad guys, the good bad guys, and the bad good guys? Add to that some raucous QueasyCam™ car chases, rear-kicking explosions, and gun battles that make those in Treasure of the Sierra Madre look like child’s play. If you’re looking for depth of character a la your role in Remember Me, remember you’re the November Man. ‘When you pass through, nothing lives.’ Which makes me puzzled: what’s up with the ending, then?
Let me be frank with you for a moment. This movie is schizophrenically unsure of what it wants to be, as RogerEbert.com critic Matt Zoller Seitz has so clearly pointed out. If it were a video game, one moment it would be Grand Theft Auto V, and the next moment Mass Effect. I once read that there were only two kinds of plots in the whole world: those of forza and forda, or body and mind. If you try to mix them up, audiences usually get confused, and the less they’ll want to see of one or the other. Nine times out of ten, what they’re looking for is much less mind (a la Agent Hanley, played by Bill Smitrovich) and much more body (Kurylenko). The issues presented in The November Man are very salient, and the villains’ raisons d’etre more believable than the ones in any of your Bond movies. However, I would have preferred that you turn down the volume of blood and turn up the intrigue, a la Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with Gary Oldman.
The character that had me the most interested in your latest picture is the one with the least screen time: Natalia Ulanova, played by Caterina Scorsone. She’s the reason why you do what you do, or why Peter Devereaux does what he does. If it weren’t for Natalia, then you wouldn’t be trying to off David Mason as he tries to boff his latest girl (What was her name again? Remember, man?) “WHAT DO YOU DO?” you bellow after you yourself do something beyond despicable. I almost stopped rooting for you at that point. Then I recalled that you’re the…hero?…and you wouldn’t (would?) stoop so low. I understood perfectly.
In closing, Mr. Brosnan, you’ve earned the right to gravity - and gravitas - through your silver hair.
Embrace it. Let this bittersweet November be a draw, half-win, half-loss, in your considerable career.
RAINEY’S RATING: 3 STARS