January 2003
The Recruit

Reviewed by Wilson Morales

The Recruit
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures/Spyglass Entertainments
Directed by: Roger Donaldson
Producer: Jeff Apple, Gary Barber, and Roger Birnbaum
Written by: Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer, Mitch Glazer
Cast: Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, Kenneth Mitchell, & Brian Rhodes

Al Pacino in Touchstone's The Recruit

"The Recruit", Al Pacino, Colin Farrell (I)


If you want to go work for the government, better realize this, nothing is what it seems. Everything is so secretive that names and backgrounds and even assignments are cover-ups to something else. With the threat of a real-life war imminent, it’s interesting that a film like THE RECRUIT would come out now. Good timing if there ever was one. If you thought about being James Bond and wondered about the training process, this is the film for you. Starring Al Pacino and Colin Farrell as the teacher and the student, the film gives you a jolt of suspense as the plot is not what is seems.

James Clayton (Farrell) is a cryptography wiz just graduating from MIT when he spots someone following him. When confronted, the man introduces himself as Walter Burke and he works for the CIA. Seems that Burke has a belief in Clayton and has extended an invitation to train for a CIA position at a place called The Farm. Clayton has never forgot about his father, who worked for the CIA and mysteriously disappeared a decade ago. “Nothing is what it seems” is the unofficial motto for the training program. For James, this is the toughest thing he’s going through as a recent grad. He didn’t want to be some tech person at another company. But the rough and stressful exercises have him thinking. Burke serves as a father figure and pushes him to be the best because he believes in him. Within The Farm, James falls for co-worker Layla (Moynahan). Their introduction, at first rocky, starts blossoming as time goes by. When James fails the toughest exercise given, he is booted from the program and falls into a depression. What he didn’t realize was that Burke was testing him and is brought back undercover into the program to flush out a mole within the trainees. As easy as it was getting along with his fellow recruits, it’s now hard for James to smoke out the “traitor.”

This psychological thriller is very compelling and very interesting to say the least. On the one hand, we get to see what one probably has to go through to make it in the CIA. You have to be athletic and intelligent, and very secretive. Director Donaldson, who last directed the political thriller “13 Days”, has done a remarkable job in keeping the suspense constant throughout the whole film. The cat and mouse game is drawn for every character as no one’s role is clearly defined with the exception of Clayton. Farrell, who will be in a few films out in the next few months, is very good in capturing the cocky attitude of a young man who’s yearning to be the best in his craft and be guided by a father figure. Pacino brings with him the same type of performance he brought to “Donnie Brasco”. He’s a father figure and a leader, but in this film, his role is not clearly defined. Given the nature of the CIA and its secretive missions, this is a good thing. The one drawback with Pacino is that he has to have his “rant scene”, which brings the tone of the film to another level. Moynahan, last seen in “The Sum of All Fears”, is very cool and resigned as the love interest who may have a hidden agenda. Although everything is not what is seems, The Recruit is able to hold your attention and make you think to what is real or not.