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The Recruit

Hotshot cryptologist and computer whiz James Clayton (Colin Farrell) is fresh out of MIT and looking for a job in the corporate world, where he'll likely rake in a six-figure salary. But for James, life is more than a paycheck — his oil-executive father mysteriously disappeared when he was just a teenager, and he's spent the past several years mounting a search to determine just what happened. Enter Walter Burke (Al Pacino), a CIA recruiter who spots James at a job fair and drops a tantalizing bit of info — he knew his dad, and knows what happened to him. With that nugget, and the promise of an exciting challenge, James agrees to join the CIA training program, which will produce several operatives with diplomatic cover, as well as one "NOC," a highly trained spook assigned to work overseas without assistance. Rule number-one for the NOC is "don't get caught," and James is told he's been selected for the job. But his first assignment turns out to be domestic — Burke insists that fellow CIA grad Layla (Bridget Moynahan) is a mole, and James is tasked with finding out who she's working for. "Nothing is what it seems" is the mantra of The Recruit, a stylish thriller from director Roger Donaldson that wastes two marvelous talents on a halfway entertaining popcorn muncher. As a spy film, it's a low-wattage affair that fails to chart any new territory — mentor/student spycraft was done much better in Spy Game, which managed to tell an ambitious, sophisticated story, rather than something that feels like a glorified TV pilot. The Recruit's best moments take place on "The Farm," the Agency's training facility, as James is given the opportunity to prove his mettle, and viewers are given the opportunity to glimpse what CIA training might be like. However, once James is give his assignment, anybody in the audience with a pulse remembers that "things are not as they seem," and from that point the picture becomes an exercise in trying to spot the plot twist before it happens, fully expecting another plot twist to follow along right behind that. At least the actors are worth watching: Irish "It"-boy Colin Farrell brings his spot-on American accent and good-natured charm, while Al Pacino takes on a part he probably could do in his sleep — by this point, Pacino in any sort of authoritarian role is interesting by virtue of the star's mere presence. All of which means The Recruit is harmless fun. Just don't let yourself get bogged down in the details. After all, why would a young, brilliant cryptologist be trained as a pistol-packing CIA field operative instead of being given a couple of mainframes and a short fridge of Mountain Dew over at NSA? Not what they seem indeed... Buena Vista's DVD release of The Recruit features a solid anamorphic transfer with a 1.77:1 aspect ratio, as chosen by director Donaldson, while audio is available in DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1. Supplements include a commentary with Donaldson and Farrell, deleted scenes, and the featurette "Spy School: Inside the CIA Training Program." Keep-case.

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