The Recruit Movie Review

Rarely do I have any trouble coming up with a way to lead into a movie review. But The Recruit has really thrown me a puzzle. Do I say something about its slick Hollywood production values and typically over-the-top performance by Al Pacino? Do I comment on its wealth of technical implausibilities? Or should I say something about how you should never trust a redhead, newbie spy James's (Colin Farrell) first obvious mistake in the film?

None of these leads really grabbed me, but then again, neither did The Recruit. It's a glossy and well-massaged thriller, designed to give you two hours of eye candy and gently massage your brain -- but not too much! After all, a fickle mass audience might be weighing their investment against the simplicity of Kangaroo Jack.

Farrell stars as James Clayton -- graduating MIT cryptography wiz, son of a mysterious father who disappeared a decade ago, and cocky bastard who accepts Walter Burke's (Pacino) invitation to train for a CIA position at a place called The Farm. Before 15 minutes have passed, James is whisked off to rural Virginia, where he endures boot camp-like training under Burke's hand, at least when he's not romancing fellow trainee Layla (Bridget Moynahan, who you may recognize as Natasha from Sex and the City). But James eventually washes out of boot camp -- or does he? -- and finds himself on a secret mission from Burke to root out a double agent among one of his fellow trainees. You guess who.

While the spy games at the beginning of the film are plenty of fun, once James is on his covert mission, the story gets embarrassingly silly. Revolving around a CIA-developed computer virus that someone is trying to steal, our double agent goes to outrageous lengths to run off with what would realistically amount to a few lines of code she could simply write on a napkin and stick in her pocket. Other technical details are completely off the wall: As a student, James develops (impossible) technology that lets you hijack any video screen and run your own webcast on it. The relatively sleepy Dell Computer is somehow interested in hiring James to do research into advanced encryption technology. And the CIA computers all run an operating system that only works from the command line. The CIA needs Windows, people!

Farrell and Moynahan (who redeems herself admirably for films like Coyote Ugly, and not just because of the many shots of her naked back) have good chemistry together, and it's hard not to like Pacino, even though he's playing Hoo-hah! for the umpteenth time. Pacino, more than anything else, make this movie a lot of fun (especially vs. the morose, yet more sophisticated, Spy Game). Even the subtle post-9/11 commentary on the intelligence community is handled well, though The Recruit hardly nears the relevance of director Roger Donaldson's last outing, Thirteen Days.

I'm not saying I'm ready to give The Recruit an Oscar or anything; I'm just saying I've seen a lot worse movies this year. And it's still January.

Now on DVD, the disc features a semi-documentary on the real CIA training facility, four deleted scenes, and a commentary track from Roger Donaldson and Colin Farrell.

Resistance is futile!


Comments

The Recruit Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG-13, 2003

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