So one day I bumped into The Recruit playing on HBO, and for the life of me I could not remember having seen this particular movie before. Heck, I couldn't even remember that this movie actually existed. And was Colin Farrell ever that young? So yeah, my curiosity lasted long enough for Tobie to arrive home from work and for us to finish watching the movie together.
Did I become a better person for having watched this movie? Probably not. Was this a hidden gem lost to me over the years? That's a no as well - I really had never seen this movie before. And the plot was a little predictable - then again, you can only go so far when you cast someone like Al Pacino. Seriously, as much as I don't like actors getting typecast, but I suppose it's hard to write truly different roles for someone like Pacino.
Synopsis: The Recruit is a 2003 spy thriller movie directed by Roger Donaldson. It was a joint American-German project with a screenplay by Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer, and Gabriel Macht.
James Clayton (Colin Farrell) is a computer expert from MIT and he and his team have developed an application that can turn any transmitter into a receiver. And this naturally helps his group get the attention of some of the bigger company representatives at the event, but James in particular is approached by senior CIA instructor Walter Burke (Al Pacino). James isn't immediately eager to join the agency, but eventually he gives into to Burke's various tests and puzzles and signs up. He also hopes to get information about his father, whom he believes probably worked for the CIA.
Eventually he qualifies and is sent to The Farm, a CIA training facility. There he finds that Burke's efforts to appear more friendly were all part of his efforts to recruit him. And thus everyone is constantly reminded not to take anything at face value. As a good example of this, he accidentally meets fellow recruit Layla Moore (Bridget Moynahan) as a counter-operative of sorts for a training exercise they're on. And still the tests and challenges come, and clearly there's more going on than any of them suspect.
First, whoa young Colin Farrell! And while I'm no movie expert, I'd like to think that I'm enough of a fan of movies in general to have better remembered him like this. I guess the Daredevil movie distracted me too much at the time or something. So it was pretty cool to see him here and looking back, it's clear that it's from that period of time when it Farrell's star was clearly on the rise and he was eager to take just about any movie. And I guess that would explain why I didn't remember this movie coming out.
Al Pacino is Al Pacino is Al Pacino though, And when you cast him in a movie, it's hard to trust him because he still acts like Al Pacino. This is not bad acting mind you and he does make for an interesting father figure for James here and there. But still, it's Al Pacino! This movie makes you want to should at the screen, "Don't trust Al Pacino!" And just when you think you can trust you, you're still wrong! Don't trust Al Pacino!
The whole training piece felt like something out of The Hunger Games or more likely Kingsman. Now that I think about it, I think a lot of the same training exercises that they did in Kingsman probably came from this movie. Unfortunately this movie stretched things out further and we have maybe have the movie involving training and all those mind games.
The second act is where the real action is supposed to be and in my head I can't help but feel like the characters should have been more aware of what has been going on earlier in the story. Instead, they all get stringed along by various deceptions only for the truth to somewhat come out in the end. There are some clever moments, but more often than not it feels like we got the "lite" version of a spy movie. This is no James Bond style adventure. This isn't even a Tom Clancy deal. This is just a movie built around some popular actors hoping to make it big.
To be fair, The Recruit is still far better than a lot of movies out there. I guess I just wish it had done more given the talent involved in the production. And so the movie gets 3 cloak-and-dagger moments out of a possible 5.