a critiQal film review The Recruit (2003)

Plot: James Clayton (Farrell) is one of the smartest graduating seniors in the country - and he's just the person that Walter Burke (Pacino) wants in the Agency. Intrigued, James accepts and is sent to The Farm, CIA's top-secret training facility. Despite rising quickly through the ranks, James starts to question his role. Just when he decides to "wash out", Burke taps him for a special assignment to root out a mole - but James has to be careful, because in this world of intrigue, nothing is as it seems...

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  • ...this Pacino/Farrell team-up is a win-win for the viewers.

I’d seen the preview for The Recruit back when it came out in theaters. Al Pacino has always been a great actor to watch, and Colin Farrell, coming off the success of Minority Report (2002), definitely looks to be a rising star as well. With the two of them, the CIA intrigue aspect, and what looked to be an interesting plot, I thought it would be worth it to check it out.

Al Pacino, as usual, plays out his role with ease. He has acting so ingrained in him, it seems so shocking when he fails. Luckily for the viewers, The Recruit, like most of his other films, shows him at the top of his form. Because his acting is so good, it’s easy for him to convince the audience that he’s not just acting, he is the character he plays. Without that conviction (on his and Colin Farrell’s part), this movie easily could have fallen apart, since it depends so much on getting the audience involved right from the get go. Al Pacino, for even just that reason, is a perfect choice for the cast, as was Colin Farrell.

Colin, whose only made about 8 films so far, looks to be shaping up well to follow in Pacino’s footsteps, and probably learned a bit from him on this film. Colin seems to have the same sort of feel for acting, albeit at a less ingrained level, that Pacino does, and it’s great to see him have the ability to showcase it.

The plot was interesting, right from the start. With the in-depth research they did into the CIA training, it was great to get at least a little glimpse into what they go through. It’s almost a CIA recruiting film for the first part, at least for some, since they showcase some pretty interesting things that they go through.

With twists and turns throughout the film, they definitely needed to catch the viewer’s attention right from the beginning. If they hadn’t had convincing characters, the twists and turns would have just lost the viewers. If the viewer doesn’t care, what good are twists and turns? That’s something that a lot of suspense thrillers lose sight of these days. This film is not one of those.

They were very aware of the viewer right from the start, and kept the viewer’s interest throughout, making the twists and turns that much more suspenseful. The viewer becomes so engrossed in the film that every twist and turn becomes like a maze, and the viewer can only watch as the plot unfolds with baited breath.

The special effects were varied, from the CIA gadgets to the gunfire to the car chases. Most of the special effects came from the stunt coordinators for this picture, rather than the CGI type common to so many pictures these days. The gadgets were neat, especially the wafer-thin listening bugs, but were not a main player in the film. The stunts, while varied and impressive, weren’t over the top for a suspense thriller. They wouldn’t want to put in The Matrix (1999)-style effects for this type of picture. This calls more for a subdued, realistic approach, and it came off really well.

Luckily for me, my instincts on this one were actually right on. The Recruit is one of the few movies of late that actually lived up to the suspense and intrigue showcased in the trailer. The trailer also, unlike a lot of suspense thrillers, didn’t give too much away. They gave enough to catch your attention, but not enough to spoil the film when you actually see it.

Without the great acting performances by Pacino and Farrell, this movie would have fallen flat on it’s face, right from the start. With Pacino and Farrell, this movie keeps you involved from start to finish, always wondering what’s around the next turn.

So, with such a good movie on your hands, the question becomes not whether you’re going to see The Recruit…just when.

Is it worth buying? I think it’d be interesting to see again, just to see if you can spot the hints about what’s to come that you didn’t notice the first time. The audio commentary is also fun to listen to, as you hear some of the on-set outtake stories that you don’t see. I’ll probably pick it up for my collection.

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