The boss of TigerBot Hesh (cassielsander) wrote,
The boss of TigerBot Hesh

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I like it this way.

As the result of random Netflix browsing I just saw November Man, which is not the tenth sequel to Kevin Kline's January Man but rather Pierce Brosnan's latest anti-James Bond film, following The Matador and Tailor Of Panama, although in a different direction.

It's a techno-spy story with very familiar moves drawn from both mentor/student films like Spy Game & Hopscotch*, "control room one step behind" stuff like the Bourne movies, and "relevance thrillers" like The Peacemaker and The Interpreter.

For most of its run it's a fairly amiable mix of these, no competition for the serious likes of A Most Wanted Man but outstripping silly messes like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and even the antiseptic success of the Mission Impossible movies, and with an above-average share of actualized female characters (without however reaching parity in this regard). Along the way there are a few clues that something more subversive is happening, but they're easy to ignore or chalk up to randomness.

The end, however (*mild spoilers*) shows that something more risky was happening. I can't say it 100% pays off, but while it makes the film more flawed it also makes it much more interesting. Because in a way somewhat like Watchmen (*oh yeah, mild spoilers for it as well*) it turns out that the plan our heroes were trying to thwart is actually something a lot of people would consider a good thing, well beyond the "well-meaning evil" that a lot of technothriller heroes end up thwarting. And given the revelation of this, Pierce cuts through the conundrum in a way that reminds me both of the Watchmen comic's telling of the Gordion Knot and of Avengers' Bruce Banner's famous line about anger.

And suddenly everything makes more sense, and is more unsettling (and I imagine to many people a lot less satisfying). If the theme of Brosnan's non-Bond thrillers tend to be "a real life James Bond would be disturbing", the ending to this provides more evidence.

The film has plenty of flaws, from the usual "the action takes place in the country that offered us the best deal" to the rarer but hardly unique "improbably epic backstory with made-up name to match". On the latter front, the concept of "The November Man" falls well short of Keyser Sose and somewhere above The Glimmer Man, perhaps just a little south of John Wick. But clunky though it is it serves its function, even if it does it so late that the final twist feels more contrived than it needed to.

So basically, if you like this sort of thing, and don't mind ending up with some bad feelings for the future, I'd recommend seeing it.

* - Don't know how many people remember Hopscotch, the Walter Matthau "creative retirement from the CIA" comedy, but the parallels are surprisingly numerous given the difference in tone.
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