Cast & Crew info:
Produced by Jeff
Apple, Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman and
Ric Kidney; Directed by Roger Donaldson; Screenwritten
by Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer and Mitch Glazer
(US); Rated PG-13 for violence, sexuality and language;
Running Time - 105 Minutes
Domestic Release Dates:
January 31, 2003
by DAVID KEYES
mind game can be a great asset to any movie that chooses
to apply it correctly, but when it's labored beyond measure
and plausibility, the result is a product like "The
Recruit." Here is an espionage thriller with about
as much intrigue as all 20 James Bond films combined, an
endless and shapeless mess that spends so much time on pulling
rugs out from underneath us that it has no desire to accomplish
anything else. In the process, characters lose their stamina,
specific plot ideas are deserted and potential scenes of
action or confrontation become anticlimactic; in general,
it's as if the movie is in some kind of elaborate guessing
game simply for the sake of confusing its observers.
doesn't necessarily mean the plot twists themselves have
much surprise in them, though. Like "The Devil's Advocate,"
a movie that saw Al Pacino in a similarly irritating role,
"The Recruit" bewilders us not by unleashing unpredictable
outcomes, but by meandering on and on with details until
general specifics never quite makes much sense. A lot of
the story's tactics can actually be seen coming from a mile
away, but it's how they're addressed afterwards that leaves
a lot of clutter behind. Whose side do certain characters
really fall on? Do specific events really play out the way
we're led to believe? And what exactly are the motivations
behind everything? The overly-elaborate struggle between
facts and guesses becomes tiresome rather quickly, and by
the end some of us are frantically searching for aspirin
as a result.
movie stars Colin Farrell as James Clayton, a young and
sharp-witted computer guru who is on the heels of major
job offers after his top-of-the-class graduation from M.I.T.
Dell Computers is one such company eager to utilize the
many talents he enjoys teasing, but James is more intrigued
himself by the offer of another onlooker: the mysterious
and witty Walter Burke (Al Pacino), who claims to be a recruiting
agent for the C.I.A., not to mention an acquaintance of
the guy's dead father. Clayton allows himself to be easily
whisked into the Central Intelligence Agency for training,
but his motives are somewhat misguided from the very start.
When he asks Walter with seeming confusion, "do I have
to kill anybody?", the aged recruiter simply responds
"would you like to?", and nothing more is said
of the matter.
movie's first act is centered on the training camp James
and other abiding pupils are sent to. Dubbed "The Farm"
by all those who reside over it as instructors, here is
an establishment that can take the simplest mind and reshape
it into a relentless espionage machine without regard to
fear or consequence. The students are introduced to nifty
gadgets, perform perilous tasks for assessment, and are
given veiled reminders of the importance of organizational
secrecy. James not only finds this material stimulating,
but also challenging both physically and mentally, elements
which he is happy to test out in front of Layla (Bridget
Moynahan), the classmate whom he hopes to impress (although
she occasionally is up one notch on her own power schemes).
repeating element behind the script's motivation is one
simple but ill-fated phrase"Everything is a test."
To fill this bracket, James and his companions are thrown
into test after test in the movie, and afterwards get caught
up in dangerous predicaments that, predictably, turn out
to be more extreme tests themselves. Then the movie abandons
the "Farm" concept and moves right into the workplace,
in which Walter assigns James to follow around and observe
his attractive former classmate, whom the agency assumes
is a double agent working secretively on trying to get a
deadly computer virus out of the main offices and into the
nation's computers (or something to that effect). Needless
to say, that may not be all there is to this particular
scenario, either. But is it really a test? Or are there
other tests we don't yet know about that are just making
us believe this is all just a test in the first place?
Recruit" makes the dubious effort of shrouding its
situations in seeps of intrigue, but every twist and device
that is thrown at the screen is easily anticipated far in
advance. When details come to light, there is no surprise
or sense of shock whatsoever, just brief and tedious explanations
as to why it is important for things to play out in a certain
way without the participants knowing beforehand. As the
movie progresses with this notion, however, the explanations
and apologies get longer and even confusing, blurring certain
lines of prior reasoning and then tearing open other potential
subplots in the process. Where does it all lead, though?
Absolutely nowhere. The picture's idea of action involves
characters silently sneaking through corridors and following
targets hoping not to be seen, with the occasional jump
from around a corner here and there to diversify the pattern.
To say it all becomes rather boring is an understatement.
Farrell and Al Pacino are fine actors trapped here by a
script that refuses to provide their characters with either
depth or instinct. Farrell's James is your average whiz
kid who trusts too many and doesn't ever quite have the
incentive to smell a setup, but that's only a surface scratch
for the film compared to Pacino's character, a creepy and
annoying creature who recites long paragraphs of dialogue
like an evangelist raised on ironic metaphors. Towards the
end of the movie, we even get an awkward and perplexing
confrontational speech that reveals, among other things,
lots of untapped ideas and perspectives from earlier situations
or brief discussions from previous encounters. And even
after that climactic convulsion, James still doesn't have
the sense to ask if that was all just a test, too.
© 2003, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.