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It's always interesting to watch a movie that was filmed in your back-yard and even though the Washington Navy Yard (where I work) is nothing like it is depicted in the movie (I am guessing the filmmakers could not gain access to the secured home of NCIS) this movie still has enough local color to keep Washingtonians interested. But aside from that, this movie is a generally entertaining thriller with some excellent performances by Al Pacino, Colin Farrell and the criminally underrated Bridget Moynahan. Farrell plays James Clayton, a brilliant computer programmer who moonlights as a bartender who is recuited by CIA headhunter Walter Burke (played with flair by Pacino). After passing the entrance test Clayton (along with fellow recruit Layla Moore played by Moynahan) is sent the CIA traing facility nicknamed "The Farm." What follows is a thrilling action adventure with enough twists and turns to keep the viewer enthralled. The 2003 movie may not have appeared an obvious choice to be one of the earlier Blu-ray catalog titles (released June 3, 2008) due to its rather bleak look, but I am certainly glad it was picked because its 1080p transfer is really quite good. Though not reference quality it is quite pleasing with enough of those high definition details (such as Farrell's trademark stubble), clarity and color reproduction to please PQ enthusiasts. The audio is somewhat average by comparison with good balance and a pleasing surround effect, and the Blu-ray of "The Recruit" is undoubtedly the best soundtrack you are ever likely to hear for the movie. The special features are a little on the sparse side (which is not really surprising considering its catalog status) but we do get a feature commentary track with director Roger Donaldson and actor Colin Farrell (who sports his actual Irish accent). It's the kind of track I personally enjoy with plenty of anecdotal stories from the set and Donaldson offering uo some technical information on the production. All of the video special features are in standard 480p quality and include four deleted scenes with optional commentary by Donaldson and Farrell, a too-short "Spy School: Inside the CIA Training Program" which runs at 15:58 and (as the title suggests) takes a look at the actual training school for the CIA (including an instance where the movie is not accurate) with on-camera interviews with 25-year veteran of the CIA Chase Brandon and the cast and crew. Also included is a rather pointless Movie Showcase that displays some select scenes to showcase the benefits of HD picture and sound (which if you have the Blu-ray you are already sold on anyway. This is an entertaining movie and although the Blu-ray features a rather average HD picture and sound it is still the best representation of the movie you are likely to see.
An oft-repeated phrase throughout this film is that with the CIA, nothing is what it seems. Unfortunately, that is not always true. If this film seems to drag a bit at times, that is what it seems. If it seems a bit repetitive and lacking in originality in dialogue and plot situations, that is what it seems. If it seems that the star power of Al Pacino and Colin Farrell aren't enough to raise this film from B-film levels, that is what it seems.
Farrell is supposed to be a techno-geek. Okay, most techno-geeks I know do not look like Colin Farrell even on Farrell's worst day. So, suspension of disbelief is required from the outset (one can make the same criticism of Keanu Reeves in the Matrix films, but those were much better films). Farrell as James Clayton is a programmer geek by day, sexy bartender by night (that part is convincing). Clayton is the sort of person that Walter Burke (played by Pacino) seems to want in the CIA, so he sets out to recruit him. Clayton has a secret buried in his past - his father disappeared, and he always suspected that it was a CIA or some similar agency operation that caused it.
Forward to 'the farm', a training ground for CIA operatives. Most people wash out, and Clayton (apparently) does, too. However, he is then recruited again by Burke to be a super-sleuth - the kind of operative that works off the books and under the radar. The mission is to secure a computer programme capable of taking over virtually the entire plugged-in world, which exists in the computers of the agency, but nowhere else. Of course, the computers at the agency don't have disc drives or printers or any other such storage devices to make theft easy.
This is the first point at which the story goes off the rails, because the theft mechanism appallingly simple, and we find during at least one scene that the agency's computers are internet-linked to an agent's home computer. So much for not being able to get information off the reservation. But I digress.
Farrell's confused acting put together with Pacino's overacting lead to a less-than satisfying, anticlimactic denouement. There are plots within plots, and, true to form, the storyline tries to craft each person as being not what he or she seems, except that the viewer can figure out fairly quickly who is and is not in the frame.
The deleted scenes don't add much to the overall experience of this film, and the final scene, alas, is definitely a set-up for a sequel, should we ever be so unlucky as to find this being made.
If it seems that there was potential for this film, between the actors and the idea, that is what it seems. Unfortunately, it seems that the film could never decide whether to be a mystery or an action film. In the end, it comes close without quite reaching the level of being good at being either.
One thing that might be worthwhile is the featurette, 'Spy School: Inside the CIA Training Program' - however, does anyone really believe that the agency is going to put very much of high security value out before the public on a mass-market DVD? Again, nothing is as it seems.
This would be a great film to be remade a decade or two from now, with a better script and tighter plot, and a decision as to whether it is in the action or the mystery genre.
The recruit is an excellent movie that gives some very real insight into the world of national security and the inherent flaws in any intelligence agency that does not have sufficient controls, oversight, and transparency. This movie is all too real in showing what actually has happened repeatedly in our intelligence agencies, where rogue agents are allowed to set up their own private operations that have nothing to do with national security and often betray our national security.
The compartmentalization used by such agencies has created a monster that is undermining our nation from within far faster than any foreign power can from without.
It also deals nicely with some of the primary tools of such agencies such as betrayal and psychological manipulation. It reveals in great detail the slimy, sleazy, sorry underbelly of espionage.
I have seen this movie on cable before and they cut it up so much the movie loses its impact. Watching it on DVD is much better.
This movie is a perfect example of why JFK had planned to dismantle the CIA and why Jimmy Carter severely reduced their numbers. It is easy to pass this off as just another thriller or suspense movie, but if you pay attention this movie has a lot of very real and important information to reveal.
The world of the Central Intelligence has always been shrouded in mystery. Entering this world is James Clayton, played by Colin Farrell, following in the footsteps of his father, who had an alleged connection to the agency prior to the old man's disappearance. Serving as James's mentor is Walter Burke, played by Al Pacino, who hints at knowing something about the young man's father. James joins other new recruits, including Layla Moore, played by Bridget Moynahan, at "The Farm", the CIA's training facility. Unfortunately, things soon become complicated with an unexpected dismissal and the possibility of a mole inside the agency. This was a different sort of spy thriller and it was quite something to watch. Al Pacino was my favorite, but I'm choosing from a cast that did great all-around. I do question why this film needed a love interest, but Bridget Moynahan wasn't dull, so I'll give my own question a pass. She fits in well and actually contributes to the story. If you like films about spies, this is a must-have for your collection. Heck, it's a must-have, no matter what. Enjoy.
Any film with Colin Farrell in it has got to be good. It was on late night TV one night and I had gone to bed but my hubby stayed up to watch it. The following morning he said what a cracking film I had missed. So I scoured the TV paper to see if it was going to be repeated, but I was unlucky (well lucky really, as it prompted me to purchase this from Amazon - the cheapest place to purchase it as a matter of fact). This film is brilliant with lots of twists and turns. I recommend anyone to purchase this as you will want to watch it again and again. I dare not go into the story, only that it is a serious one, as I will get carried away and spoil it for you all.