A CIA trainee is tasked with locating the mole
inside his agency and retrieving any stolen data.
The Recruit (2003)
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Written by Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer, Mitch Glazer
Starring Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan,
Gabriel Macht, Karl Pruner, Eugene Lipinski
Like many espionage thrillers made in the early 2000's, The Recruit is a predictable yet forgettable foray into the training methods of new CIA operatives. Despite boasting solid performances from Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, and Bridget Moynahan, The Recruit has little else going for it. The plot is twistier than a mountain road and makes little sense the more you get into it. However, most of the nonsensical plot shifts occur in the second half, after the training is over. If the film had focused on only the training of the agents, this would've been an entirely different (and likely better) film.
Colin Farrell plays James Clayton, a brilliant MIT graduate with a knack for writing code and designing programs, who is recruited to join the CIA by Walter Burke (Pacino). Burke hints that he knew Clayton's father, who died in a plane crash when he was a kid. Beyond a number of confirmations by untrustworthy figures, we never find out about his father. I feel that if it was never going to be relevant to the plot anyway, it's unnecessary to bring it up almost constantly. Still, the chemistry between Pacino and Farrell makes the film somewhat work, until the plot veers left and suddenly becomes about identifying a mole in the company. This ill-advised restructuring of the film changes everything for the worse, and turns what could've been a half-decent spy thriller into a confusing mess with a cookie-cutter ending.
In the right hands, a film like The Recruit could be interesting and maybe even worth a watch. It's never a good sign when I find myself wishing Pacino would suddenly revert to his mid-90's persona and start screaming "HOO-AH!" again. The Recruit has a lot going for it at first and seems like a realistic depiction of CIA training programs, but it tries too hard to be too much and falls flat on its ass by the film's end.