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Just another training day

"NOTHING is what it seems," says senior CIA agent Walter Burke (Al Pacino) when introducing young novice James Clayton (Colin Farrell) to the world of espionage.
While those who come to the cinema with a general idea of what The Recruit is about might see such statements as unavoidable (and irritating) clichés, no other sentence could characterise the movie better.
A talented young MIT graduate gets into the CIA secret-agent training programme, out of which only the most successful participants are selected to become 'real' field agents in the end. During the course of the movie, the viewer witnesses how the training exercises the new candidates have to undertake get increasingly tough, while the relationship between Clayton and his female colleague (Bridget Moynahan) develops.


COLIN Farrell dreams of becoming a spy in The Recruit.
photo: Saturn Entertainment

The Recruit

Starring: Colin Farrell, Al Pacino, Bridget Moynahan
Directed by: Roger Donaldson
Running time: 115 min
Rating: 8 out of 10

"NOTHING is what it seems," says senior CIA agent Walter Burke (Al Pacino) when introducing young novice James Clayton (Colin Farrell) to the world of espionage.

While those who come to the cinema with a general idea of what The Recruit is about might see such statements as unavoidable (and irritating) clichés, no other sentence could characterise the movie better.

A talented young MIT graduate gets into the CIA secret-agent training programme, out of which only the most successful participants are selected to become 'real' field agents in the end. During the course of the movie, the viewer witnesses how the training exercises the new candidates have to undertake get increasingly tough, while the relationship between Clayton and his female colleague (Bridget Moynahan) develops.

Although the central plot of the movie unfolds relatively late, the scenes and situations, occurring in unfamiliar parts of the CIA's training facility, manage to sustain the tension of the story from the very beginning of the movie. The action is always hinting that there is more going on than just Burke's training programme.

The movie's major strength is its script, which is well written and unpredictable. The director, Roger Donaldson, should also be commended, for having avoided standard Hollywood set pieces so common in this kind of film.

The Recruit is what a movie should be: smooth running, natural in tone, and so compelling that the viewer almost forgets to breathe.

It might be best if this review stopped here. However, unluckily for the movie - as well as for the viewer - the plot is not original. It was told only a year ago by the Oscar-winning movie Training Day (Denzel Washington won an Oscar for best actor in a leading role), which also showed a cat-and-mouse game between a talented novice and his mentor.

But if you liked Training Day, you will surely like The Recruit, not only because it has a similar story, but also because that story is told so well.

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