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The Recruit (2003)
The Recruit is a 2003 American spy thriller film directed by Roger Donaldson, starring Colin Farrell, Al Pacino and Bridget Moynahan. It was released on January 31, 2003 in North America by Touchstone Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 43% of critics gave positive reviews based on 163 reviews with an average score of 5.5/10. Metacritic gave it an average score of 56 out of 100 from the 36 reviews it collected. James Clayton (Colin Farrell), a computer programming expert at MIT, is recruited by senior CIA instructor Walter Burke (Al Pacino) to test for a position with the agency. After witnessing an extraordinary demonstration of Clayton's computer skills, Burke further tests the intelligence of Clayton with an open puzzle encoded on the sports page of a common newspaper, the solution of which gives to Clayton Burke's telephone number. Clayton agrees to be recruited, in part, to find information concerning his father who he suspects was a CIA operative that disappeared when Clayton was a child. After passing numerous psychometric, psychoanalytical, aptitude, and polygraph tests, Clayton is taken to The Farm, a CIA training facility.
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!