Urban Cinefile
"Because of the sheer size of the image and the absolute clarity, the amount of digital artistry required was five times anything used in Jurassic Park "  -Director Brett Leonard on the making of T Rex: Back to the Cretaceous
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



James Clayton (Colin Farrell) may not be typical, but he has all the requirements that Walter Burke (Al Pacino) wants in a recruit for the CIA. First, James needs to learn the ropes and rules of the game at The Farm, the agency’s secret training ground where new recruits are put through the mill in a series of intense exercises. As James learns the ins and outs of being a spy, he is attracted to fellow recruit Layla (Bridget Moynahan). But James finds himself tested in more ways than one, when commissioned to a special assignment to spy on her

Review by Louise Keller:
This is a slick DVD, beautifully presented in keeping with its spy themes and containing some enticing features to compliment the film. I was really interested in the Spy School featurette, which takes us into an actual CIA training facility. There’s an interview with Chase Brandon, who has worked at the CIA for 25 years, and according to producer Jeff Apple, they were fortunate in being able to take advantage of his vast experience. Everyone loves deleted scenes and with Colin Farrell and Roger Donaldson’s commentary, they are given a sense of immediacy as they relive the actual shoot.

In the commentary, Donaldson and Farrell reveal that the film’s original title of The Farm was changed to The Recruit, because it was thought that people would think that this was a story about pigs and other animals. ‘The only animal in the picture was you, mate,’ says Donaldson to Farrell. It’s a spontaneous and entertaining commentary, and you may be interested to hear snippets of trivia – like the images of father and son in the opening credits are a young Colin Farrell with his real dad – on holidays in France.

As for the film, The Recruit is a gripping and intense psychological thriller, that takes us on a riveting cat and mouse chase until we are not sure who is chasing whom? Beginning with eclectic taunting credits that offer jigsaw glimpses of parts of a puzzle that are enough to tantalise, here is a film whose taut and intelligent script is well realised by a director who knows exactly where he is going and what he is doing. 

This is a collaboration of top talents, and Al Pacino elevates the project immediately by his presence alone. Coupled with the charismatic Colin Farrell, they make a compelling team with push-me, pull-me tactics in the subject matter that keeps us on the edge of our seats. Pacino is authoritative and edgy as the CIA recruiting officer who has a nose for finding talent. He cleverly makes us think that we know his Walter Burke, until we realise that we know absolutely nothing about him. Although he repeatedly reminds us ‘Nothing is what it seems’, we are never prepared for the events that transpire. Farrell has an intense and enigmatic screen presence, combining Brad Pitt good-looks, George Clooney appeal, with Russell Crowe street-wise unpredictability and toughness. His eyes are magnets and the scenes with Pacino are nothing short of riveting. The set up is immaculate, when Burke promises no answers but only secrets, painting a grim picture of the CIA agent, whose future comprises neither money, sex nor fame. As we learn the rules, we learn to forget the rules. Where does the gruelling make believe of training end and reality begin? We undergo the scrutiny and the training with James, and when the personal gets mixed with the mission, things begin to get out of control. Bridget Moynahan has just the right blend of appeal and complexity, and there’s no shortage of chemistry between her and Farrell. A splendid score helps builds up the tension. We are constantly shifting in the quicksand of unpredictability, never sure what is real and what is not. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of The Recruit – it’s an intelligent and mesmerizing thriller that sucks you in relentlessly, keeping you guessing as your mind spins round and round and round. 

Email this article


CAST: Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, Karl Pruner


DIRECTOR: Roger Donaldson

SCRIPT: Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer, Mitch Glazer

RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes

PRESENTATION: Dolby Digital; widescreen 16:9 transfer for dual layered format

SPECIAL FEATURES: Featurette – Spy School: Inside the CIA Training Program; Deleted scenes with optional audio commentary; audio commentary by director Roger Donaldson and Colin Farrell


DVD RELEASE: (rental)July 30, 2003; (retail) January 29, 2004

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020