The Recruit

Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan

india Updated: May 05, 2003 21:14 IST

At one hour and 45 minutes, The Recruit is anything but an overlong film. Yet the listless spy thriller is such a huge drag that it leaves you wishing it had never escaped the confines of the studio. Who could have expected a film starring the redoubtable Al Pacino and the personable Colin Farrell to be a letdown of such monumental proportions?

The visuals are crisp enough and the technical inputs are of the very highest order, but the plot is a jingle-jangle of clichés and illogicalities and the pacing is hopelessly tentative. The characters linger endlessly over cups of varied beverages every now and then, stare for eons at computer screens at supposedly tension-filled junctures of the plot or simply keep parroting vacuous lines like "Nothing is as it seems" and "Everything is a test" until one loses count - and patience.

Given the air of somnolence that hangs over the film all the way through, the viewer could be forgiven for wondering if director Roger Donaldson was led to believe, probably by an anti-American conspirator, that he was making a three-hour-plus film. The Recruit actually feels like one.

Not only do the inexplicable indulgences of the scriptwriter drastically slow down the film's pace, it also gives the sharper members of the audience enough opportunity to spot the lack of substance in this cliché-ridden broth. We've seen it all before: this formulaic routine that pits a hard-as-nails veteran against a wet-behind-the-ears rookie was handled with far greater flair in the recently seen Spy Game and Training Day.

Pacino is cast as Walter Burke, an ageing CIA instructor who homes in on a computer whiz James Clayton, played by with a fair degree of panache by Farrell, in a Boston bar and talks him into accepting a stint at the agency's top-secret training facility, euphemistically called "The Farm".

Once there, the sceptical young man - he believes the CIA is run by "fat, old, White men who slept when they were needed the most", an obvious reference to 9/11 -- is put through the grind. He is taught skills that no CIA operative can do without, including the ability to fudge facts before a lie detector without being caught - that, indeed, is another of the many scenes that recur through the film.

The young man falls in love with a mysterious fellow trainee Layla Moore (Bridget Moynahan), a woman of Algerian descent who might be "a mole" in the ranks. Burke tips off Clayton in the nick of time about Layla's game plan. In order to impress the hard to please instructor and to prove his patriotism, the recruit agrees to lay a trap for the lady.

But the rest of the film just meanders into meaninglessness. Burke is actually absolutely right: nothing is quite what it seems here. The Recruit may look like a thriller, but it plays out more like a puerile jigsaw puzzle that is so fuzzy that it would have been painful hadn't it been so soporific.

Director Roger Donaldson's credits include such edge-of-the-seat fare as No Way Out and Thirteen Days. One would find that hard to believe on the evidence that The Recruit provides.

Pacino sleepwalks through his role: with the character being so hollow, that is all he is required to do. Colin Farrell gets the lion's share of the footage. He gives it his best shot and that's such a waste. Bridget Moynahan's sultry seductress act is as vapid as the rest of the film. Give it a miss.

First Published: May 05, 2003 10:12 IST