2 Stars — Weak

The promotional material for The November Man gives you the whole story: An ex-CIA operative is brought back in on a very personal mission and finds himself pitted against his former pupil in a deadly game involving high level CIA officials and the Russian president-elect.

Since the movie stars Pierce Brosnan, you might think that this is a James Bond knock-off.  In some sense it is, but a much rougher, tougher Bond without a sense of humor.

The best part of an action thriller film is that you are constantly wondering “who done it?” The American CIA agents are suspects. The Russians are all caricatures of the Soviet mafia. Even the good guys, if you can figure out who they are, do not possess any sense of higher values other than “the ends justify the means.”

Devereaux (Brosnan) is an ex-CIA agent who gets drawn into a battle with Mason (Luke Bracey), his protégé from his days in the agency. Mason is given the order to kill his former boss, and he has to decide whether he has the ability to follow orders or to discern an internal plot to eliminate the one person who could undo a clandestine operation. Is there really an evil plot, or is this just the real work of the CIA to destabilize the evil Russians?

Devereaux is a man of Bond-like talents who presumably will win in the end, but getting there is the thrill ride. The question is: Do the ends justify the means when it comes to protecting the United States of America?

Most people are relatively uninformed about what a CIA operative really does, and they seem to like it that way. If we really had to confront the reality of the spy business, we might squirm in our seats. How does a nation convict people for every level of murder, especially of innocent people, and then sanction the elimination of others in the name of national defense? How can one be a moral outrage and the other be a moral imperative?

Hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of people from other nations fought and lost their lives to protect the values we hold dear, but it is an uncomfortable fact that we all use evil to fight evil. Gandhi would be rolling over in his grave, and Jesus would, too, if He was still there!

Unfortunately, The November Man doesn’t explore this question, but just uses this international reality to build a nail-biting story. If you accept this premise, then this is a good popcorn movie for a Saturday afternoon. If you want more, save your money.


» Do you believe that the United States should have operatives who take the lives of others? Why do you answer as you do?

» How realistic do you believe this film to be, or is it only a fictional tale? How do we know what secret organizations like the CIA actually do in order to evaluate the morality of their behaviors?

» What is it about a James Bond type of hero that speaks to many of us?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.