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Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris

St. Petersburg Times Online

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'The Recruit' keeps you guessing

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Read Billy's movie reviews on his special archive page.

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2003

The Recruit

  • Rating: PG-13

Summary: James Douglas Clayton (Colin Farrell) is a recent college graduate whose father disappeared more than a decade ago while working as an agent for the CIA. Now Clayton is being pursued by Walter Burke (Al Pacino), a CIA recruiter. Burke brings him to "the Farm," where all recruits go through boot camp-like training to find out if they have what it takes to make the cut. One thing Burke tells his recruits over and over is that nothing is what it seems and they shouldn't trust anyone. But Clayton becomes distracted by fellow cadet Layla Moore (Bridget Moynahan), who takes the training extremely seriously. As the training gets more and more brutal and Clayton's emotional and physical fortitude is continually tested, he is given a mission. It seems as though Moore is a mole working for an outside force, and Burke wants to know who that is. With the death of his father and his affection for Moore constantly looming in his mind, Clayton must put aside everything else to complete his mission and figure out who his true allies are.

Colin Farrell in The Recruit
[Touchstone photo]
CIA newcomer James Douglas Clayton (Colin Farrell) meets the spy games head on in The Recruit.
My view: I usually enjoy CIA or FBI movies like this, and The Recruit was satisfying in that respect. But the plot in this one is better developed. I had to do a double take a few times to make sure I knew what had just occurred. Though I tried to determine who the bad guy was before the end, the plot kept throwing me for a loop. The "spy games" the recruits are tested with also test the audience. Some of the story line seemed indecisive and unclear, but that was part of the sense of intrigue that kept this movie flowing. Pacino seemed at home in his role, and so did the rest of the cast. Overall, a nice casting effort.

Favorite part: The movie's themes of "nothing is what it seems" and "everything is a test" were thoroughly entertaining. Clayton's intuitive spirit and extreme intelligence are the sources of a few clever tricks that make you want to say, "Hey, that was pretty nifty!"

Recommendations: This one is on the border of an R rating, with some sexuality and a lot of violence and profanity, so it's definitely not appropriate for anyone under 13. If you like a good spy movie, though, here's a solid Saturday night flick for you.

Grade: B+

-- Billy Norris, 15, is in the ninth grade at Seminole High School and is a former member of the Times X-Team.

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