James Clayton (Colin Farrell) may not be typical, but he has all the requirements that Walter Burke (Al Pacino) wants in a recruit for the CIA. First, James needs to learn the ropes and rules of the game at The Farm, the agency’s secret training ground where new recruits are put through the mill in a series of intense exercises. As James learns the ins and outs of being a spy, he is attracted to fellow recruit Layla (Bridget Moynahan). But James finds himself tested in more ways than one, when commissioned to a special assignment to spy on her.
Review by Louise Keller:
A gripping and intense psychological thriller, The Recruit fascinates at every turn, taking us on a riveting cat and mouse chase until we are not sure who is chasing whom? Beginning with eclectic taunting credits that offer jigsaw glimpses of parts of a puzzle that are enough to tantalise, here is a film whose taut and intelligent script is well realised by a director who knows exactly where he is going and what he is doing. This is a collaboration of top talents, and Al Pacino elevates the project immediately by his presence alone. Coupled with the charismatic Colin Farrell, they make a compelling team with push-me, pull-me tactics in the subject matter that keeps us on the edge of our seats. Pacino is authoritative and edgy as the CIA recruiting officer who has a nose for finding talent. He cleverly makes us think that we know his Walter Burke, until we realise that we know absolutely nothing about him. Although he repeatedly reminds us ‘Nothing is what it seems’, we are never prepared for the events that transpire. Farrell has an intense and enigmatic screen presence, combining Brad Pitt good-looks, George Clooney appeal, with Russell Crowe street-wise unpredictability and toughness. His eyes are magnets and the scenes with Pacino are nothing short of riveting. The set up is immaculate, when Burke promises no answers but only secrets, painting a grim picture of the CIA agent, whose future comprises neither money, sex nor fame. As we learn the rules, we learn to forget the rules. Where does the gruelling make believe of training end and reality begin? We undergo the scrutiny and the training with James, and when the personal gets mixed with the mission, things begin to get out of control. Bridget Moynahan has just the right blend of appeal and complexity, and there’s no shortage of chemistry between her and Farrell. A splendid score helps builds up the tension. We are constantly shifting in the quicksand of unpredictability, never sure what is real and what is not. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of The Recruit – it’s an intelligent and mesmerizing thriller that sucks you in relentlessly, keeping you guessing as your mind spins round and round and round.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Take the old fashioned spy thriller and turn it up a notch for today’s jaded palates, shoot it like you mean it to hurt and throw a promising young actor against one of the top character acting stars of the screen. That’s the recipe for The Recruit, a hard boiled version of the spy sub-genre of double agents. The trick is to keep the audience away from the twist revelation as to the identity of the real double agent. It requires a smart script and a smart director, with high powered performances. The Recruit satisfies on all those counts, and is also strikingly lit and photographed by Stuart Dryburgh. The elaborate establishment of the story is crucial to our being duped and makes us invest heavily in the characters. That’s why the pay off has to be big enough to be satisfying. If you enjoy the intricacies of human deception as practiced in modern espionage, be sure to see The Recruit. And take someone you can trust . . . or think you can.
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RECRUIT, THE (M)
CAST: Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, Karl Pruner
PRODUCER: Roger Birnbaum, Jeff Apple, Gary Barber
DIRECTOR: Roger Donaldson
SCRIPT: Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer, Mitch Glazer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stuart Dryburgh
EDITOR: David Rosenbloom A.C.E.
MUSIC: Klaus Badelt
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andrew McAlpine
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 27, 2003