5 Espionage Myths — The November Man


By Piper Bayard


The November Man movie poster

The November Man movie poster


The November Man is an espionage movie in which an ex-CIA operative is brought back by the Company for a personal mission in Moscow, only to find himself pitted against his protégé. It is a fast action thriller starring Pierce Brosnan and Luke Bracey that rockets viewers through the Russian and Serbian shadow world with everything from brutal assassins to rogue top-level operatives. It is also a comprehensive collection of espionage myths.


Myth One – CIA operatives are all ready and willing to off their own at any given moment just because a bureaucrat orders it.

Truth – US intelligence operatives are not murderous automatons who blindly kill whomever they are told to, up to and including their mentors and protégés.


It was common in Stalin’s KGB for Soviet operatives to kill each other. In fact, the KGB had a special branch for the express purpose of targeting fellow agents. However, such pointless slaughter has never been part of the US intelligence culture. Americans don’t put up with that crap. Presidents come and go with their various agendas, and long after they are booking their lecture tours and cutting ribbons on their presidential libraries, operatives are still on the job. Our intelligence community consists of flesh and blood human beings who would not live long if they didn’t question and comprehend their missions. They are not slovenly attack dogs to be released on any target that a transient bureaucratic overlord decides is inconvenient to their political goals, particularly when that target is one of their own.


Myth Two – Operatives think nothing of killing innocent people.

Truth – People who randomly kill innocents are serial killers and criminal psychopaths, not highly trained intelligence operatives.


Killing is serious business, and the intelligence community has had standing orders for decades to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible. An operative who randomly kills innocent people would be quickly weeded out. Such behavior is unacceptable in the intelligence community.


Myth Three – Operatives can’t have families.

Truth – Operatives, like anyone else, can have loved ones and families that they adore.


While it is true that many field operatives are either single or divorced, that is due to the nature of the job and not to any taboo about bonding with other humans. The fact is that few spouses are up for, “I need to go. Can’t say where. Can’t say when I’ll be home. Sorry, but I can’t leave you a number, either.” The lifestyle is very hard on relationships, and spouses must be as committed to leading the double life as the operative is. Not many are, and they are not to blame for that. However, as my writing partner proves, some do sustain marriages and family ties for decades.


Myth Four – People can be killers, or they can love, but they can’t do both.

Truth – Dedicated operatives often go into the field because they DO love.


The notion that someone who is trained to kill the likes of Bin Laden can’t love is patently absurd. Many operatives go into the field because they are unwilling to sit still and do nothing while brutal despots butcher innocent people.


Myth Five – Assassins look like assassins.

Truth – Assassins look like the school secretary, the grocery store manager, the bank teller, the janitor, or anyone else who can blend in with a crowd.


It is not required for operatives to speak in foreign accents and wear either tailored business suits or black leather.


Russian Assassin from The November Man

Russian Assassin from The November Man



While not a common myth, another notable fiction in The November Man is the notion that bullets from handguns travel at four times the speed of sound . . . Excuse me? A handgun? More like a hand held rocket launcher. Clearly, Hollywood is holding out on the Navy.


If you care nothing for accuracy about espionage or human nature in your spy thrillers, then go ahead and spend the $13 and enjoy Pierce Brosnan doing what he does best. However, if you do know anything at all about firearms, operatives, psychology, history, NATO, or intelligence work, this movie will make your head explode at a velocity of four times the speed of sound.

11 comments on “5 Espionage Myths — The November Man

  1. I watched it today… I really enjoyed it

  2. Don Royster says:

    Good one. I have always thought of James Bond and Jack Ryan as adult male fairy tales, nothing more and nothing less.

  3. Well, it is Hollywood, isn’t it? And what is Hollywood mostly about if not escapist fantasy? Personally I had a laugh at the scene in the last one where James Bond chases a bad guy on a motorbike across the roof of the grand bazaar in Istanbul, has a few smash-bash-crash moments, all without his shirt becoming untucked from his trousers. Nice article. 🙂

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Thank you, Richard. I also loved that scene. I adore Bond, though. While it has a great deal of the absurd, it does so with good humor. Often spy flicks are thinly veiled “CIA is evil and all operatives are misogynistic bloodthirsty killers” BS.

  4. Smplefy says:

    So I should wait for it to come out on Netflix and then not watch it??

  5. Vikash says:

    True genius is grounded in a logical progression of intelligent thought.. Its this logical progression that’s amiss in most of the movies these days.

    Nice post. Good read!

  6. majroj says:

    “Intelligence” does not equal “assassinations”. Expending someone (an intelligence officer) who has been a productive asset, by having he or she kill someone and undertake those risks is like hiring Yoyo Ma then ordering him into a fighting cage.

    The classic Bond MOVIES (as opposed to former British intelligence agent Ian Fleming’s books) were designed (mostly) to be campy to a degree…and when they weren’t, they were anyway.

    A Brit once told me he could tell if a film was being shown in America by looking at the poster. If at least one Caucasian or Afro-American person was holding a gun, it was sure to be American.

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