Recruit, The

Stars: Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, Mike Realba, Dom Fiore, Kenneth Mitchell
Director: Roger Donaldson Writers: Mitch Glazer, Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer

A Guy comes up to you in a bar and says you have less than twelve hours in which to make a decision that could not only alter the rest of your life, but could quite possibly end it prematurely. How’d you like to work for the CIA? What would you do? Pack a duffle bag and head to the rear of the bus? Not likely.

But that’s exactly what Colin Farrell’s character does in this glossy and entertaining but less than thrilling spy caper, The Recruit. Farrell stars as a James Clayton, an MIT trained computer cryptography genius obsessed with the untimely demise years earlier of his father, a globe trotting oil company executive. He’s recruited into the CIA by Walter Burke (Al Pacino), brandishing the possibility that James’ father may have actually been a spy too. James eats it up, so desperate is he for any information on his father’s mysterious death. As a result, Burke becomes a surrogate father to James, ever so slyly guiding or rather manipulating James’ choices.

At the CIA’s training facility in Virginia, dubbed “The Farm”, James learns the art of black ops with other eager recruits, among them, a pretty, Farsi-speaking Layla (Bridget Moynahan). They go through exercises in shooting, detonations, surveillance, torture survival and lots of role playing where Burke repeatedly advises “nothing is as it seems”. That’s the audience’s primary tip-off so that you can anticipate every mild twist and turn the script takes and maybe even figure out the bigger twist at the end. Burke gives James his first assignment and astonishingly (or not, if you’ve seen the trailers) it involves Layla, allegedly a sleeper counteragent who the CIA has recruited into its midst to discover who she’s working for. But nothing is as it seems … you get the picture.

The character is nothing new for Pacino; he’s his usual blustery, larger than life self and good as always. But he also gets the sad chore of having to cope with dumb dialogue that leaves him explaining mundane electronic details to a computer expect who would know more than he does. like Farrell plays well opposite him, all smokey good looks and that bad-boy image that precedes him but in the long run, I think he needs the kind of support that a Pacino can offer. I especially liked Moynahan here. She smart, cute, sexy and vulnerable.

Depiction of the recruitment and training of potential CIA agents could have had greater impact if taken more seriously and had it really been the gist of the story. As it is, I think it was glossed over for the sake of turning it into a conventional spy thriller. And when that happens we get stupid things tossed at us like agents talking to each other on open cell phone lines and office computers left on so that anyone can rummage through files.

Lotta says:
This is a no-brainer. Don’t think too much or look too closing. Just enjoy the gloss. Rated PG13 for profanity, sexuality and violence.

Reviewed: 1/31/03