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The Recruit (2003)

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 115 minutes

UK Certificate: 12a

Nobody expects too many surprises from Al Pacino these days. Let's face it, the guy can act – it's pretty much a given. But the eyebrow-raiser in The Recruit is Colin Farrell who, when not making brooding meaningful glances in the direction of nothing in particular, looks a competent leading man who may well be a big screen regular for some time to come.

Farrell keeps most of the screen-time to himself as James Clayton, the computer whizzkid and part-time barman smooth-talked into applying for the CIA's training programme by full-of-himself recruitment specialist Walter Burke (Pacino). Clayton manages to tear himself away from chatting up fellow trainee Layla (Bridget Moynahan) for just long enough to impress the men up-top – or so he thinks. Either way, he winds up waist-deep in double-crossing and espionage, and inevitably there are no shortage of questions for the audience to mull over. Who's really the bad guy in all of this? Who's working for who? And why is Farrell's stubble always exactly the same length?

Certain parts of the film just don't ring true (we're supposed to believe in Clayton's commitment to keeping his operation top secret, yet he talks openly about it on a mobile phone whilst standing on a crowded escalator), but it builds towards a tense and intriguing climax. There's also the small matter of the traditional end-of-film Pacino rant which, as usual, is worth the admission fee in itself. It's just a pity old Al spends most of the rest of the movie simply going through the motions and playing second fiddle.

It's Got: Twists a-plenty

It Needs: For Pacino’s character to stop repeatedly reminding us that "nothing is what it seems" and "everything is a test". We heard you the first time.


Never quite as unpredictable as it aspires to be, but Farrell’s performance and Pacino’s presence pulls it above the average.