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The Recruit


In an era when the country's first line of defense, intelligence, is more important than ever, comes an explosive thriller starring Al Pacino and Colin Farrell that for the first time opens the CIA's infamous closed doors and gives an insider's view into the Agency: how trainees are recruited, how they are prepared for the spy game, and what they learn to survive. James Clayton (Farrell) might not have the attitude of a typical recruit, but he is one of the smartest graduating seniors in the country - and he's just the person that Walter Burke (Pacino) wants in the Agency. James regards the CIA's mission as an intriguing alternative to an ordinary life, but before he becomes an Ops Officer, James has to survive the Agency's secret training ground, where green recruits are molded into seasoned veterans. As Burke teaches him the ropes and the rules of the game, James quickly rises through the ranks and falls for Layla (Moynahan), one of his fellow recruits. But just when James starts to question his role and his cat-and-mouse relationship with his mentor, Burke taps him for a special assignment to root out a mole. As the suspense builds toward a gripping climax, it soon becomes clear that the CIA's old maxims are true: "trust no one" and "nothing is what it seems." *from IMDB summary January 2003


The senior instructor is Walter Burke, played by Al Pacino in a performance that is just plain fun to watch, gruff, blunt, with a weathered charm. He recruits an MIT whiz-kid named James Clayton (Colin Farrell), who turns down a big offer from Dell Computers because he wants to know more about the fate of his late father, a CIA agent. Or maybe because he uses a Macintosh.
*from Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun Times, review dated January 31, 2003


Al Pacino, who must have it written into his contract that his character gives at least one speech, pontificates about why people join the CIA. "It's not the money…sex… or fame," he notes. "It's because we believe." Listening to Walter talk, I could understand why someone might join The Company. He's a more convincing spokesperson for spydom than George Clooney in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. *from James Berardinelli, January 31, 2003


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The first two acts of the film are fun because they're all setup and build-up, and because the romance between James and Layla is no more cornball and contrived than it absolutely has to be. The third act is a mess. It saddles Pacino with the thankless role of the Talking Killer (not that he necessarily kills). That's the guy who has to stand there and explain the complexities of the plot when any real CIA veteran would just blow the other guy away.*from Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun Times, dated January 31, 2003

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Colin Farrell is not only enormously likeable but fascinates us with his permanent four-day beard. His chemistry with Layla is real enough, but come on: When he walks into that bar to pick up someone, doesn't it occur to him that it is hardly a coincidence that Layla is already there? Mata Hari would make mincemeat of this guy, but the girl shows promise... *excerpt taken from Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun Times review dated January 31, 2003


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James Clayton: Would I have to kill anyone?
Walter Burke: Would you like to?


Serious training scenes prompted even Pacino into one-liners including, "I pity da fool!" (While Farrell is boxing.)


By the time Pacino wraps things up, we're realizing that the mantras "Nothing is what it seems" and "Trust no one," if taken seriously, reveal the entire plot. There is however a neat little misunderstanding at the end that earns a chuckle.
*conclusion from Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun Times, review dated January 31, 2003


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