The Recruit Review
By Shawn McKenzie 01/31/2003
What makes a predictable movie? Is it possible to become blinded by an unsurprising movie because of your admiration of the actors in it or director who helmed it? I’m starting to wonder about that, because in the days since I saw The Recruit, I’ve been hearing from a bunch of people, including the friend I brought to the screening, that they saw the end coming (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it here.)
Walter Burke (Al Pacino) is a CIA recruiter who, as he puts it, “a scary judge of talent.” He is always on the watch for prospective future agents, and he thinks he may have found one in James Clayton (Colin Farrell), a computer software developer who fits the profile of the CIA. He approaches James with the offer to join, but he initially turns him down, because of circumstances involving his late father. He eventually gives in and enlists in the CIA with other recruits, including Layla Moore (Bridget Moynahan), Zach (Gabriel Macht), and Ronnie (Mike Realba.) They go through training at "The Farm" in Langley, Virginia. They learn the basics of espionage and are subjected to different tests intending to simulate what it’s actually like in the field. After James is dropped from the program for cracking under some fierce interrogation, Burke informs him that he's actually been chosen as their top Ops Officer, a position they call the NOC (Non-Official Cover.) His assignment is to find out if Layla is a potential mole that may be working inside the company trying to get access to a top secret and possibly destructive software program. James has the hots for her, but he is forced to ignore his feelings for her and go undercover as a double agent within the organization to find out if she or someone else is a traitor to the organization.
I personally was surprised and entertained by the plot twists in this movie the whole time. They gave clues to what would happen at various times (like the software James was developing at the beginning of the movie), but unless you took notes, I think most people would find the twists satisfying. My friend claimed he saw the end coming, but honestly, I think he told me once that he saw the end of The Sixth Sense coming, so I don’t know what to think.
I loved the performances by the two male leads in this movie. Pacino gave what I thought was an Oscar-caliber performance last year in Insomnia (which will be ignored, since Academy members have short-term memories and that movie came out last May), and though I wouldn’t consider this one for the golden statuette, it was believable and at times very intense. Farrell is starting to become one of my new favorite actors. He hasn’t been in enough movies yet for me to put him in Edward Norton-land, but he has the possibility of reaching it.
I have to address something I’ve been reading lately about the credibility of this movie. I read an interview with a CIA advisor that some of the techniques employed in this movie has never happened and would never happen in the real training process. My question is this: is this the truth, or is he just trying to throw us off? As Pacino’s character puts it in the movie, the CIA’s failures get all the attention; their successes do not.
I think that you will have a good time at The Recruit. If you bring a buddy with you and they predict the twists in this movie, maybe you should have him buy your lottery tickets for you!
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