DIRECTED BY Roger Donaldson
STARRING Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan
Opens March 28, Cert 12A, 114 mins
When Colin Farrell signs up as a trainee CIA operative in Roger Donaldson’s slick spy caper, he has more to deal with than weapons instruction, role-play exercises and psychological evaluation. He also has to cope with shameless grandstanding from Al Pacino giving another of those shouty, screen-hogging, over-the-top performances that have now become his trademark. Hoo and indeed haa.
To his credit the young Irish actor just about holds his own against Pacino’s vintage ham, combining confidence and scruffy machismo with an undercurrent of vulnerability that makes a refreshing change from Hollywood’s usual rock-jawed leading men. It’s this clash of styles that makes The Recruit worth watching?as opposed to a hackneyed screenplay that recycles the staple ingredients of the genre.
Tapping into the wave of paranoia that’s swept the US since 9/11, Donaldson’s film is eerily reminiscent of Tony Scott’s Spy Game. Curiously, though, the main point of reference seems to be Harry Potter, with CIA facility “The Farm” curiously resembling a grown-up version of Hogwarts. It’s here that tech whiz James Clayton (Farrell) learns the ins and outs of espionage at the feet of veteran spook Walter Burke (Pacino). Extracurricular activities are supplied by fellow recruit Layla (Moynahan), who offers romantic relief from surveillance lessons and torture training. Soon, however, James is up to his neck in real spies after Burke enlists his aid to flush out a mole at the Agency.
What follows (car chases, double crosses, computer files smuggled with ridiculous ease out of Langley) won’t win any prizes for originality, and anyone who saw Donaldson’s far superior Pentagon thriller No Way Out will see the big twist coming a mile off. But while The Recruit feels undeniably familiar, there’s a solid professionalism at work here that ensures two hours of engrossing, if formulaic entertainment. And when all else fails there’s always Al, becoming more and more like his Stella Street caricature with every picture.