The Recruit
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG-13 // January 31, 2003
Review by Todd Siechen | posted February 2, 2003
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This film may seem like an exercise in misdirection, but it still delivers nicely for the first 60 minutes. It does take on a forced "never-cry-wolf" sort of pattern and therefore leads to certain predictability. This film hinged itself too heavily on the rapid-fire deception in place of what could have been a more engaging story, but ultimately the film does carry a decent amount of entertainment. Pacino and Farrell are very charismatic and without them the film would be very thin.

A brilliant young computer genius, James Clayton (Collin Farrell) is approached for recruitment into the CIA by a slick fast-talking veteran Walter Burke (Al Pacino) who also claims he knows Claytons father and the true story of his death over 10 years earlier. After a bit of Pacino style slick manipulation, Clayton is finally convinced to go along to the CIA training camp for spy school. There he finds a romantic spark with Layla (Bridget Moynahan) and finds he is having a difficult time detaching himself while learning the ways of the spy. A cat and mouse game ensues filled with trickery and illusions where nothing is as it seems in the craft of CIA espionage training. Deception is so much the routine of everyday CIA operations that its a wonder anyone can trust anything anyone says or does. It's difficult to describe the plot without giving too much away so I will just say that the actors do a fine job at keeping a fairly mediocre script from sinking into the abyss. The buildup of intelligent espionage trade craft and outwitting your enemy makes some of the later decisions by the main characters somewhat puzzling. For instance if a spy is tracking someone and his most valuable position is one of total secrecy, why would he go wildly shooting and chasing down a suspicious character? There are a few other such questionable decisions on the part of the writers which bring the ending along with some disappointment.

The first 15 minutes heightens our expectations that a very engaging espionage film will ensue, but after tempting us for the first hour at the CIA training camp known as "The Farm" we soon begin to see that a very different string of events will occur. It's only in the last 20 minutes that we are shown what the point of the story was without having a decent set-up to effectively tie anything together. This film tries to be smart but instead is diluted into a more glitzy James Bond style action go bang-bang movie, dumbed down for more general audiences. This becomes crystal clear at the conclusion and the really sad thing is that the end could have been greatly improved with a better script.

To succeed with audiences, The Recruit will depend on how good they are at purging expectations, but with Al Pacino and Collin Farrell at the helm, that may be a difficult thing to do. Despite the flaws with The Recruit, there is a very definite level of entertainment value here if only a glimmer of something exceptional. I give it a light recommendation.

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