If you’ve been to the movies at all in the past month, you’ve seen “The Recruit”. Its ubiquitous trailer, that is, but it strained so hard to spoil every twist that it’s as if you’d seen the whole film already. Even if you somehow avoided the previews, the red herrings are so obvious that you’d have to be pretty thick not to see every “surprise” coming. The movie might as well have been called NOTHING IS WHAT IT SEEMS or EVERYTHING IS A TEST, so drilled are those phrases throughout. Almost all the potentially suspenseful scenes are undermined by this. Why should you be scared when the characters are seemingly in a tight spot when you’ve been repeatedly assured that EVERYTHING IS A TEST? How shocked can you be by the eventual deceits and betrayals when you’ve been endlessly warned that NOTHING IS WHAT IT SEEMS? Oh, and by the way, Al Pacino is A SCARY JUDGE OF TALENT.
Pacino plays William Burke, a CIA recruiter and trainer who handpicks James Clayton (Colin Farrell), a computer crack who graduated at the top of his class at MIT and who also happens to be athletic, sleek and sexy as hell. He’s also got unresolved paternal issues since his father died in a plane crash in Peru in 1990, so he quickly hatches on to Burke and intends to prove that the man is indeed A SCARY JUDGE OF TALENT during his CIA training at the “Farm”. Things become more complicated when he learns that a fellow trainee (Bridget Moynahan) he’s got the hots for is a double agent. Then again, EVERYTHING IS A TEST… And NOTHING IS WHAT IT SEEMS, right?
Director Roger Donaldson is a competent craftsman, giving the film a smooth flow and a moody, greyish-cold-rainy-blue look. No sunshine for the CIA! I also liked the electro-ambient, bass-heavy score and the casting is inspired. That’s a good thing, because with a plot this thin and predictable, the film would have grown deadly dull really quick without compelling actors able to fire up mediocre material. Al Pacino is always enjoyable to watch, even when he’s coasting on his usual brash, WAAAH! inner Pacino. Colin Farrell’s character is a bit of a blank, reacting to others’ actions without taking much initiative himself, but Farrell’s magnetic screen presence generally makes up for it. He’s well paired with Bridget Moynahan and they work up some sexual tension despite the contrived who’s-taking-advantage-of-whom plot mechanics they have to work with.
As for the action scenes, they’re few and far between and not all that memorable (the subway chase sequence made me jump a couple of times, though). There’s certainly something wrong with a movie which climaxes with a character rambling on and on about his methods of treachery while the hero frantically types on a laptop! I know they’re integral to everyday life, at home, in every office and inevitably in the CIA, but geez, computers don’t belong in a thriller! Typing, downloading, code-cracking, that’s hardly visceral stuff. Hence, despite solid performances and efficient direction, “The Recruit” is too light on thrills or smarts for me to recommend it.