Published Aug 27, 2014When I write "meh" in a film review, please know it's my code for "serviceable." Meh is a subjective term to many if not most, and I'd contend that meh movies aren't necessarily bad movies. There are plenty of meh movies we'd all gladly kill a few hours watching knowing full well we're not doing much more than passing the time (A Knight's Tale, which is on TV every time I'm near one, comes to mind).
The November Man is, I believe, the good kind of meh movie. It's unremarkable but still watchable, and its general serviceability is reached by satisfying a few criteria:
1. It's easy to follow, but not out-and-out stupid. A meh movie must be comprehendible by just about anyone, but not by everyone. There's a Mendoza line for these kinds of things.
2. It's vaguely intelligent and interesting, but it's not too much of either of those things.
3. In the case of an action film or a thriller (The November Man is an espionage thriller), it has to be passably exciting. If your heart isn't beating, or if it's beating hard enough to explode, it's not meh.
Roger Donaldson is one of meh filmmaking's auteurs. He directed Cocktail, Species, and Dante's Peak. He's not great. He's a-meh-zing.
The November Man concerns Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan), an ex-CIA type living in Switzerland. He gets pulled back into the life when an old comrade tells him someone from his past needs help getting out of Russia, as she has dirt on the soon-to-be Russian President. Predictably, the exfil attempt goes horrifically sideways, and Devereaux is pitted head-to-head against his former protégé David (Luke Bracey), a gifted young gun with a history of insubordination.
Fast-forward to Devereaux, the CIA (led by David), and a badass Russian assassin all looking for a woman, Mira, who was orphaned during the Chechen war. She knows the dirt, too. The only one who knows where she might be is Alice (Olga Kurylenko), an aid worker in Belgrade who just happens to be otherworldly good-looking.
All sides go after Alice, each with their own motives. There's a lot of gunplay and cat-and-mouse/master-and-student gamesmanship between Peter and David and a lot of intrigue as to what this information is, and it raises questions: Who wants it to come to light? Who wants it to stay buried? And why?
The November Man is fine, simple entertainment, bolstered by a few "what the fuck?" moments and a stalwart straightforwardness. Sure, it plays to conventions for the most part, but what you're going for is to see the former James Bond do a James Bond impression, and Brosnan is mostly equal to the task. So see it, if you must. Just go on a Tuesday, ok? That's the meh way.