The Recruit is either one of the most pointless spy movies ever made or a poignant masterpiece of existential angst.
I’m leaning towards the former.
Regardless of its probable lack of point, this movie is a lot like a high-tech gadget: its chiselled looks and cool sound effects make it somewhat enjoyable, although never enough to make me forget that it has no reason for being whatsoever.
The most interesting thing about the The Recruit’s plot is the picture it gives of Hollywood armchair macho men imagining what your average armchair macho men would want in a movie about the CIA—all configurations of trick ’em, chase ’em, and shoot ’em.
Unfortunately, macho protagonists become predictible, and the depth of character exploration in a feature-length film is no more than what most daytime soaps provide in half the time.
Al Pacino played his patented wild man mentor, seen previously in films like Scent of a Woman, this time in the incarnation of CIA recruiter Walter Burke.
But even Pacino’s famous grumbling and rumbling is not enough to distract you from the movie’s drudgery.
This movie’s mantra, repeated over and over by Burke “nothing is what is seems”—weirdly ironic when applied to a movie that could be predicted after its first few minutes.
The other leads, Colin Farrell and Bridget Moynahan, are supposed to be spy trainees in love, although they are neither convincingly spies nor convincingly crazy about one another.
We see them hop in bed, chase one another, and trick one another for a mission—but we never get much of a sense of why they’re there.
But they are convincingly beautiful, and I particularly appreciated Farrell’s soap-opera star-like ability to raise just one eyebrow, the number one daytime way to register dismay or surprise.
These kids seem to go into the CIA the way that most people go to kindergarten—they have no particular reason for being there, but so long as they are there they will try to make the the teacher happy.
Only Farrell’s character, James Clayton, who occasionally mentions his dead father whom he believes might have been a CIA agent, seems to have any drive to become a spy, although this connection is barely explored.
The take-home message from both Burke and from Clayton’s father is that the CIA is a place, we learn, where you live and die without being known or recognized.