Movie Reviews: "The November Man," "How the World Was," and "A Most Wanted Man"

  • Written by John Mulderig, Catholic News Service
  • Published in Movies & TV
Pierce Brosnan and Olga Kurylenko star in a scene from the movie "The November Man." Photo: CNS/Relativity Pierce Brosnan and Olga Kurylenko star in a scene from the movie "The November Man." Photo: CNS/Relativity

Recently reviewed by Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - There's not much cause for thanksgiving in "The November Man" (Relativity). That's because the only thing out of the ordinary about this espionage-themed action flick is the level of visceral violence on display.

Director Roger Donaldson's screen version of Bill Granger's novel, "There Are No Spies," follows the adventures of retired CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan). He is reluctantly lured back into the world of secret ops by the need to protect Natalia Ulanova (Mediha Musliovic), a source-turned-lover for whom he still carries a torch.

Natalia has been working undercover in the offices of Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski), the front-runner in the race to become the next president of Russia. There, she's unearthed evidence of the lurid war crimes Federov committed during the conflict in Chechnya.

As Peter tries to get Natalia to safety, however, he's confused to find himself at odds with his former colleagues, including trigger-happy agency assassin David Mason (Luke Bracey), who was once Peter's trainee. The measures they take to thwart Peter's extraction of Natalia leave him not only enraged and bent on revenge, but determined to follow up on Natalia's quest to torpedo Federov's candidacy.

Since Natalia's clues point to a Belgrade social worker named Alice (Olga Kurylenko) as the one person who might be able to produce a witness to Federov's atrocities, Peter and David are soon struggling for custody of her.

Eventually, the murky, conspiracy-driven story line also takes in the shifting fortunes of two Langley bigwigs, Peter's ex-boss Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) and scowling pen-pusher Weinstein (William Patton).

The bloodletting along Peter's path ranges from skulls exploded by high-powered rifle bullets to major arteries slashed by knives. Add to that an explicitly portrayed encounter between David and a casual acquaintance -- as well as Peter's visit to a strip club to chat with a pimp who might know something to Federov's discredit -- and what you're left with is a viewing experience that frequently plays on the lowest aspects of human nature.

The film contains excessive gory violence, graphic nonmarital and implied premarital sexual activity, upper female and rear nudity, about a half-dozen uses of profanity and a steady flow of rough and crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

"How the World Was: A California Childhood" (First Second)
A poetic and beautifully drawn graphic novel about author Alan Cope's childhood during the Great Depression. Illustrated by Emmanuel Guibert, it takes the form of an understated diary. The ever-present threats posed by poverty and illness are contrasted with the awe of seeing color film for the first time and with the seemingly boundless ability children had, in that simpler era, to use their imagination while playing outdoors for hours on end. The climax of the story comes with the untimely death of Cope's mother, an event that caused her husband -- but not her son -- to lose his faith. Violence, nudity and profanity are entirely absent from the narrative, though it does deal briefly with the subject of self-gratification, a topic it treats with sensitivity, if not in strict adherence to moral principle. Despite that, at least some parents may consider this absorbing and educational read, considered as a whole, acceptable for older adolescents.

Mature themes, including the death of a parent, fleeting references to, as well as a benign view of, masturbation. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults.

"A Most Wanted Man" (Roadside)
John le Carre's 2008 espionage thriller is adapted for the big screen, showcasing the extreme measures spies take to combat terrorism, and the moral compromises that go with them. Director Anton Corbijn has crafted a tense cat-and-mouse thriller set in Hamburg, Germany. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his final leading role, portrays a veteran German intelligence agent overseeing a top-secret team working to expose terrorist cells by infiltrating the local Muslim community and obtaining information. An idealistic immigration lawyer (Rachel McAdams) is his link to a shady refugee (Grigoriy Dobrygin) from Chechnya, who may or may not be an extremist. Complicating matters are an American spy (Robin Wright) and her agents lurking in the shadows, who have another agenda in mind. The chase is on, and fans of le Carre's novels will know to expect the unexpected. The film's pronounced anti-American bias and cynicism, however, may leave a bitter aftertaste.

Stylized violence, frequent profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Catholic News Service - Aug. 29, 2014