Movie Review by Neil Ryan
Starring: Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, Kenneth Mitchell
Director: Roger Donaldson
An oft-repeated maxim in this film is “nothing is what it seems”. But don’t you believe it. Everything is what it seems in this most obvious of movies. The plot, characters, dialogue, and set pieces are all wholly predictable. I defy anyone to say that they are surprised by any given aspect of this film. And even if there is the odd twist that you find you were not expecting, you would still have to concede that it is a wholly perfunctory twist that has appeared in countless other spy thrillers.
Al Pacino is treading water as Walter Burke, a CIA recruitment and training officer who enlists IT graduate James Clayton (Colin Farrell) to join a group of other young hopefuls at the Agency’s secret training centre known as ‘The Farm’. It is here that raw young tenderfoots such as Clayton and fellow trainee Layla (Bridget Moynahan) are honed into mean, sharp operatives – if they can handle the physical and psychological tests. During training Burke takes a special interest in Clayton; Clayton takes a special interest in Layla; and I wasn’t especially interested in any of it (having suffered cliche overload by this point). Eventually Clayton is singled out for a mission that involves a possible security leak from within the Agency and, quelle surprise, it turns out that nothing is what it seems (which, as we’ve already established, means that everything is as it seems).
Okay, so it’s got star names and it’s never actually dull but THE RECRUIT is, nonetheless, totally routine. For example, in order to establish Clayton’s confidence of character and mental toughness the script falls back on the well-worn cliche of a poker game between the recruits. And you need only have seen one previous movie poker game to predict that loose cannon Clayton will (a) raise the stakes in a face-off with his major rival, (b) cockily bluff his way through the hand even though he is holding nothing of value, and (c) win. Another example? How about that hoary old deux ex machina whereby the hero is manipulated by another character because of his desire to find out more about the father he never knew (“You knew my dad?”, “What can you tell me about him?”, “Tell me how he died”; etc).
Don’t waste your money. Wait for it to get a TV airing. On a rainy day. When your remote control is broken and thus stuck on the channel showing THE RECRUIT. Maybe.