One can live a day in the White House in “Thirteen Days,” operations of the Pentagon can be easily learned in “No Way Out” and now one can find pretty accurate visualizations and descriptions of the Central Intelligence Agency in “The Recruit.”
Al Pacino stars as Walter Burke, a CIA veteran who knows his stuff and is “a scary judge of talent.” No longer active in the operations field, Burke continues to hone his talent by playing guru and teacher to CIA hopefuls on The Farm, the CIA’s “top secret” training camp nestled in the hills of Toronto. Fitting the clandestine reputation of the CIA, Burke is a seemingly omnipresent figure in the film. If CIA hopefuls are caught cheating, he is the one to catch them; when recruits are questioned in “The Chair,” he knows the hidden motives of the inquisitors.
Colin Farrell also stars in the film as James Clayton, a computer wiz a few months shy of graduating from MIT. In the beginning, Clayton gives the impression of a scatterbrained smart-alleck who has no idea what to do with his obviously natural gifts and talents. However, as the film progresses, one can see that he is simply a kid: a kid with no parents, no past and a very shaky future. When approached by Burke in a skillfully executed meeting at his job, Clayton agrees to participate in the training, wooed by promises of learning more about his past.
Bridget Moynahan and Gabriel Macht co-star in the film as Clayton’s fellow CIA trainees. As with many of the film’s characters, their motives and overall moral outlooks are debatable. The film offers no easy judgments of character, for the notions of “good guy,” “bad guy” and possible threats shift from character to character throughout the movie. At one point Burke’s identity as a real CIA recruiter may become questionable, as are the roles each recruit plays in the various mini-missions the trainees must successfully complete.
With the strong performances of Pacino and Farrell serving as the steadfast roots of the film, “The Recruit” is chockfull of both action and drama. Exciting stunts and cleverly shot scenes of the recruits’ time on The Farm not only keep the heart pounding, but also test the other bodily functions of the stomach and bladder. The age-old element of a relatable youth searching for his past (and in turn questioning his future), seems to always appeal to Joe Q. Moviegoer, and Farrell’s character is no exception. Clayton’s ever-present longing for the keys to his past drives him to prove himself on The Farm; this concept tends to tug at the heart strings.
Dubbed by many viewers a “Training Day” rip-off, “The Recruit” squashed those assumptions with the addition of an unforeseen twist to its ending. Granted, at the end of the movie, there were many mumbles of “I knew it” or “That was so obvious.” But anyone who says that is a liar. Not only were there no allusions during the film to its ending, but the thought of its conclusion simply does not fit into the audience’s mind frame during the points that lead to the film’s finale. As a whole, the film is one big tricky mind game.
The backdrop of the CIA itself added the right amount of sleek intrigue, but with the addition of CIA gadgets and detailed scenarios of their training procedures, one cannot help but leave the theater more than a little paranoid. Think twice before picking up a chick in a bar or even picking your nose when you think no one is watching.
Finishing its opening weekend in the number one position, “The Recruit” shows no signs of “buying the farm” any time soon.
“The Recruit” can be seen at the National Amusement Jamaica Multiplex at 159-02 on Jamaica Ave. or at Forest Hills’ Cinemart Cinemas at 106-03 Metropolitan Ave.