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The Recruit ***1/2
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starring Colin Farrell, Al Pacino, Bridget Moynahan
directed by Roger Donaldson


      The Recruit deserves a round of applause. It manages to be the best movie of the year so far. Its true that 2003 is still young and the odds of The Recruit ending up on anyones top ten list at the end of the year is slim to none, the film entertains in spite of all that.

      The film details the recruitment, training, and spy thrills of James Clayton, beaming with charisma due to the actual charm of the actor playing him, Colin Farrell. Farrell has been through so much in his young acting career, earning critical acclaim along the way. But the film he received the most recognition for from critics, Tigerland, isnt known to the general public. All the films hes been in since then have placed him in the ads next to the names of A-list stars like Tom Cruise (Minority Report) and Bruce Willis (Harts War). This film is no different, putting his face on the posters next to the face of Al Pacino, who plays his recruiter and superior. But make no mistake; this is Farrells movie. This may be the film that ends up putting him on the map.

     Farrell is at his best when hes forced to play emotions stemming from his characters core sense of distraught, and he gets the workout he needed with the role of James. We, as the audience, are led to believe hes out of his element right from the moment he meets Walter Burke. Thats no mistake, Burke deliberately knocks James off his cocky footing with the promise of information regarding the disappearance of his father if he joins the CIAs training program. At first, James is full of excuses, but the possibility of finding out the answer to the question hes been losing sleep for over ten years proves to be all the motivation he needs. He enters The Farm, the CIAs training camp for spys, where he bumps into another of the promising recruits, Layla Moore (Bridget Moynahan of Coyote Ugly and The Sum of All Fears fame). He becomes smitten, and he spends a large chunk of the movie entangled in a cat and mouse romance games with her, but thats not the main event for us spectators.

     James interactions with Burke and the promise that nothing is what it seems are the driving force behind the movie. The mind games and the thrills hinted at in the trailer come in droves, primarily in a chase sequence that delivers some of the goods a movie like this requires.

     There may be a number of comparisons made between this film and another young CIA agent and mentor movie, Spy Game. Those comparisons are obvious, but The Recruit separates itself with its emphasis on the training element of becoming an agent. It feels real, and the tensions and conflict resulting from the exercises each trainee goes through. What makes movies dealing with the CIA work is the level of knowledge we have about the inner workings of the agency. We dont really have any. The only film given access to the CIA for information and shooting locations is The Sum of All Fears, largely due to the CIAs reluctance to be associated with any movie that depicts them in any kind of negative light. Thats understandable, but what results is the motion picture industry having the freedom to create that reality. The Recruit takes advantage of this freedom, and the film suffers no bouts with fantasy because of it. The scenes involving any aspect of the CIA seem real because we havent ever seen anything to contradict the movies depiction of the agency.

     Farrells chemistry with the key supporting characters, Pacino and Moynahan is key to any of the believability that the film achieves. Pacino is at times a little over-the- top, but hes dead on when he has to be. Moynahan was promising in The Sum of All Fears, but this is also her coming out party. Sure, she has the beauty to distract from the plot, but her acting reels us back in. Shes actually more than the pretty face were presented with in the trailer.

     But, as I stated earlier, the film belongs to Farrell. Its his acting that makes all the elements of the film come together and gel. All the twists and turns that may put off some audience members work because they happen to and around Farrell. He never reacts wrong. He never delivers a line that will make you cringe. The Recruit is better than most people will give it credit for, a lot better.

***1/2 of ****

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