Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Recruit

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, sexuality and language.

Reviewed by: Megan Basham

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teen to Adult
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:

Starring: Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, Kenneth Mitchell

Directed by: Roger Donaldson

Produced by: Gary Barber, Jeff Apple, Roger Birnbaum

Written by: Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer, Akiva Goldsman, Mitch Glazer

Distributor: Touchstone Pictures

In a time when our nation’s foremost security agencies are coming under more scrutiny than ever before in history, a spy thriller investigating the hidden workings of the CIA should make for a pretty riveting film. Certainly, getting a glimpse into how trainees are recruited and by whom is one of least-explored, potentially fascinating topics of our time. Throw in a charismatic newcomer like Colin Farrell and a legend like Al Pacino and you’ve got a blockbuster that should practically write itself. Unfortunately, though, it’s certainly not the worst spy flick to come down the pike in recent years, “The Recruit” doesn’t quite deliver on its promise to provide an insider’s peek into the espionage game.

The film starts out well enough, making insightful observations about the spy business that are, in a strange way, somewhat analogous to the Christian life. Pacino points out that since money and recognition are necessarily ruled out as lures to his profession, what must really keep the trainees coming is their belief in absolute right and wrong. What’s more, he makes sure his pupils know that, though the world will always publicize and ridicule their failures, it will never focus on the successes they achieve (and the lives they save) everyday. Considering some of the vitriol being hurled at the President and his faith these days, such remarks seem especially appropriate.

Acting wise, the film showcases some impressive performances. As shallow as he seems when playing the bad-boy during Entertainment Tonight interviews, Colin Farrell is a surprisingly good actor. Instead of giving us the ultra-cool, “I live for this stuff” bravado we’ve come to expect from films starring Vin Diesel, Farrell’s Jim Clayton is the kind of intelligent, slightly reckless young man we believe the CIA would actually recruit. He’s still courageous, but he’s not such an idiot he doesn’t know when to be afraid. What’s more, he and fellow trainee Layla (Bridget Moynihan) experience sincere emotional conflict over their developing relationship versus their jobs—something it seems like any real human being, spy or not, would go through. (And points to the costume designer for dressing the lady in clothes she could actually carry out missions in.)

Al Pacino turns in his usual superior performance as Walter Burke, the senior officer who recruits and trains Clayton. And he and Farrell manage to make the most of the somewhat corny father/son tension of their relationship. So what’s the problem? Sadly, in the second half, the film loses its believable look-into-the-CIA feeling and resorts to every thriller formula in the book, complete with angry, gun-waving confession. Without giving too much away, it’s a little hard to accept that someone with Burke’s knowledge and year’s of experience could fall so easily to some young upstart. Similarly, you can’t help but wonder how come, if Jim is so intelligent, he never wonders why he never meets with any other CIA staff person.

Overall, “The Recruit” isn’t a bad movie—though two sexually suggestive scenes should make parents wary—it just disintegrates into a series of obvious “twists” by the end. I’d still love to see Farrell and Pacino paired again, let’s just hope that next time they don’t waste their talents on a project so average.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—This movie was very entertaining. The sex scenes were offensive, but unfortunately, predictable. The entire plot, however, kept my husband and I thinking through the entire movie. Even after the movie ended, we were trying to figure out how all the details fit together. It would be worth seeing again in order to catch more details. It had a very interesting twist at the end.

I rate it a definate positive for acting and plot, but negative for the immorality.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Jennifer, age 33
Negative—The plot has interesting and promising premise but although acting is good, the execution seems fragmented and unrealistic. Good vs Bad conflict seems to have no indentifiable moral standard. Handling of casual sex scenes make film unaccepatble for teens and youth. I would not recommend the film even for adults.
My Ratings: [Somewhat Offensive / 2]
—Paul Johnson, age 56
Comments from young people
Positive—I went to see this movie with my brother and a friend the day it came out and we were not disappointed. Yes, the reviewer is right, near the end of the movie it went away from the “look-into-the CIA” but I thought the little twist it took was enjoyable and quite interesting. As far as moral quality, I didn’t find the overall movie offensive. There were several instances that had sexuality to them and of course, being a movie about the CIA, a few people got killed.

I wouldn’t take a child to see unless they were old enough to understand these things and knew moral from immoral. I would definitely see it again. One, because the movie was a little hard to follow not knowing who is good and who is bad. And two, because it was an enjoyable movie.
My Ratings: [Somewhat Offensive / 5]
—Maria, age 15