FILM REVIEW HH 1/2
Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You
‘The Recruit’: Your Average MIT Dork Saves the World
Associate Features Editor
Written by Roger Towne and Kurt Wimmer
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Starring Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, and Karl Pruner
I’ll admit it. The reason I wanted to see The Recruit was that the preview explained that the main character was from MIT. And every so often I like to imagine that after four years of botched studies, I have the potential to attract women like Bridget Moynahan (Coyote Ugly) and get a job spying and beating the crap out of people.
This imaginary play-along scenario doesn’t last too long. There are obviously some blatant flaws that make you realize it’s not MIT. For example, at the MIT Job Fair, there are companies that want to recruit people. And while there is a good amount of spy action, and another great performance by Al Pacino (Scarface) as Walter Burke the CIA Drill sergeant, nothing else remains that makes you want to follow along with James Clayton (Colin Farrell, Phone Booth) on his mission to save the free world.
For the next 30 minutes, the movie paints a picture about how hardcore the CIA really is during their training at “the farm.” These scenes, along with the “Republican interns are hot!” guy, make you wonder if our Congress got its greasy paws in the production of the movie. Speeches about choosing good over evil, fun-looking training missions, long distance running, and a few spy traps just make the time seem to fly by while praising the merit of those in training. Not only are they seemingly pointless to the plot, but they also fail to develop and enhance the dynamics between James and Walter, James and Leyla (Moynahan), or James and his dead father, around all of which the movie is supposed to revolve. All they really do is remind us to give much respect to the CIA. And, I guess, young Republican women.
Finally, our real story begins. Walter fakes James’s dismissal from the farm in order for him to be an uber-spy of justice. In typical Bond fashion, the attractive female lead who has an intimate relationship with the hero is actually a double agent. John’s mission is to let her lead him up to her boss without arousing suspicion. The story picks up and leads us on an intense and intriguing chase.
The problem is that while the plot develops, the characters don’t. Even good performances by Farrell and Moynahan and great tough-guy acting by Pacino can’t shake the cookie cutter roles that they have been given. You care for John because he’s a great spy. You care for Walter because he’s Al Pacino. You care for Leyla because she’s attractive. These are really good characters for a light, summer-read novel, but not necessarily for a movie.
On a more positive note, the movie contains one of the most suspenseful gunfights I’ve ever seen. Innovative lighting and use of closed space only add to the well-done scene. The director chooses not to let bullets fly, but draws out the tension of the scene by having only one volley and then making the assailant go into hiding. You are kept waiting in spectacular Hitchcock fashion.
One would expect a few plot twists to add a little suspense to the movie. And there are -- but any person with high mental acumen would be able to see them coming. You will be able to see the big plot twist before it is laid out in the open, and the only surprises left will be the tricks that Mr. MIT has up his sleeve.
And while the movie pays homage to our school, it certainly doesn’t do justice to poor Pacino, who ends up being the big loser at the end of the movie. From Ray Liotta in Narc to Robert DeNiro in Analyze That, the tough-guy Old Guard is slowly losing its status in Hollywood.
The Recruit didn’t blow me away or give me the ego boost I wanted, but it was able to entertain me with a good story for two hours.