Pierce Brosnan’s best-known role to date remains James Bond. Bond is such an iconic character that his name is almost synonymous with the spy thriller genre. Ask any layman what a spy film is about, and they’d most likely mention Bond irrespective of their having watched a Bond film. With The November Man, Pierce Brosnan returns to the spy thriller genre, but not as the iconic 007, but as a retired American spy.
Does The November Man come anywhere close to the gold standard set by Bond, or even later thrillers like the Bourne films? Let’s find out.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
Plot Summary – A Spy Out Of Retirement
The November Man begins with a stereotypical mission gone the wrong scene. Our protagonist, Peter H. Devereux, aka the November Man, is on a protective mission with a younger agent, David Mason. As expected, the younger agent doesn’t follow orders. His reckless actions result in Devereux getting shot and a child being killed in collateral.
Years later, Devereux is called out of retirement by his former boss Hanley to extract his former colleague Natalia working undercover as an aide to Federov (the Russian President-elect). She has managed to steal photographic evidence against Federov, whose men are chasing her to retrieve them. The CIA team, who’s in charge of extracting Natalia, is unaware of Devereux’s presence in the Mission. Believing she’s detracted, they’re ordered to kill her, and naturally, the one to pull the trigger is Devereux’s former pupil, David Mason. The dying Natalia leaves Devereux with a name, and Devereux proceeds to kill everyone in the CIA team before facing Mason. The two separate without killing each other.
Hanley is brought in for interrogation, and Mason is tasked with terminating Devereux. The November Man now finds himself mixed in a dangerous game involving the CIA, the Russian President-elect, his former pupil, and a sinister plot involving war crimes and blackmail.
‘The November Man’ Ending Explained – What Was Hanley’s Plan?
If you like spy thrillers, you probably guessed the major twists after reading the above summary. Hanley is the mastermind behind the whole thing. However, what exactly was his plan? It’s never explicitly explained if Hanley worked with Federov under the CIA’s orders, though his plan does end with him being promoted, so it’s safe to assume that the CIA was aware.
The Russian President-elect, Federov, is a war criminal. Hanley worked with Federov, helping him during the Chechnyan war. Years later, he again works with Federov to ensure he is elected president and steals evidence against him to blackmail him into joining NATO. With Russia’s participation in NATO, Hanley intends to use Russia’s power against the Middle East. Of course, Devereux manages to overpower and capture Hanley while his associate leaks all the information to the media.
Federov’s candidacy is annulled. In the end, Federov is killed by an unknown sniper. Who was the sniper? Did Devereux return to his life of normalcy, or was he called in for another mission? The end has many setups for potential sequels, which never got made.
Of course, this is an oversimplification of the plot, and there are several other threads involved that I haven’t touched upon. However, most of those threads feel like their only purpose is to complicate matters and not because they add value to the overall thrill of the film. Hanley’s master plan isn’t so much a menacing grand scheme as it is comically complicated, relying on cliches that result in cheap thrills if any.
The November Man is everything you’d expect from a spy thriller. The fact that you can not only expect but also accurately predict the twists and turns, unfortunately, makes this one a lukewarm thriller at best. The characters remain one-dimensional, and audiences will struggle to root for anyone here. The action sequences, too, aren’t anything extraordinary. This film comes nowhere close to the brilliance of Bond or Bourne, nor the exhilarating ride of the Mission Impossible films. It’s best to skip this one.
The November Man is a 2014 Espionage Thriller film directed by Roger Donaldson. It stars Pierce Brosnan in the lead role.