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Academy Award Winner Al Pacino and Colin Farrell take you deeper into the CIA than you've ever been before in this action-packed psychological thriller. James Clayton (Farrell), one of the smartest graduates in the country, is just the person Walter Burke (Pacino) wants in the Agency. James quickly rises through the ranks and falls for Layla, one of his fellow recruits. But just when James starts to question his role and his cat-and-mouse relationship with his mentor, Burke taps him to root out a mole. As the suspense builds in a maze of gripping twists and turns, there are only two things James can count on-he can't trust anyone and nothing is as it seems. It's the ultimate CIA thriller with so many surprise plot twists, you'll want to watch it again and again.

Roger Donaldson
Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht
Writing Credits:
Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer, Mitch Glazer

Trust. Betrayal. Deception. In the C.I.A. nothing is what it seems.
Box Office:
Opening weekend $16.302 million on 2376 screens.
Domestic gross $52.784 million.
Rated PG-13 for violence, sexuality and language.

Widescreen 1.77:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Digital Stereo

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 5/27/2003

• "Spy School: Inside The CIA Training Program": Never-Before-Seen Look Inside The CIA
• Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary
• Feature Commentary with Director Roger Donaldson and Colin Farrell

Score soundtrack
Search Titles:

TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.


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The Recruit (2003)

Reviewed by David Williams (June 3, 2003)

The Recruit introduces us to James Clayton (Colin Farrell), a soon-to-be MIT graduate and a computer genius to boot. Clayton’s mad computer skills have not only impressed the high-tech crowd, but they have also caught the attentive eye of Walter Burke (Al Pacino), a recruiter/trainer from the CIA. One night while tending the bar he works, Clayton meets Burke face-to-face and Burke manages to lay out Clayton’s middle-American future as a Dell employee over a martini and then offers up an alternative … becoming an operative in the CIA. Clayton’s not too sure at first, but it doesn’t hurt the CIA’s cause when Burke dangles some information in front of Clayton about the death of his father back in 1990 in Peru that may have had some CIA connections. Burke is well aware that learning more about his father’s death has been a personal mission of Clayton’s and when he throws out the bait, Clayton bites hard.

Once Clayton accepts the bid, it’s off to Langley, Virginia for testing and then on to the training facility at “The Farm”, where led by Burke and others, he will learn the ins-and-outs of CIA work which includes deceit, espionage, role playing, fooling lie detectors, self-defense techniques, and even the particulars behind killing someone (with or without weapons) among other things. He also learns that the perks of the job include little to no money and earning medals you can’t even take home with you; other “perks” could also include dying in the line of duty for your country only to be remembered by a star on the wall and a blank space (representing your name) in a memorial book at HQ. While training, Clayton also develops a love interest in the beautiful Layla Moore (Bridget Moynahan), a fellow recruit at “The Farm”. Burke will use the relationship between the two recruits as a teaching tool by putting them both into unpredictable situations where deception … and survival … is the name of the game.

Only after being “discharged” from the CIA and leaving the confines of “The Farm” do things really start to heat up, as Burke assigns Clayton the role of finding out why one of the other recruits – namely Layla - has become an operative for the bad guys. During his investigation, Clayton cannot tell good from evil or friend from foe and can only lean back on the tenants of his CIA training – “don’t trust anyone” and “nothing is what it seems”.

Director Roger Donaldson has had some hit-and-miss films in the past, but he manages to keep The Recruit fairly engaging and the “hits” here definitely outweigh the “misses”. While it’s amazing that it took the talents of three screenwriters (Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer and Mitch Glazer) to keep this ship above water, their combined efforts managed to pay off - even with some of the attempted misdirection (albeit telegraphed – “everything is a test”, “nothing is as it seems”) and hanging plot points scattered throughout.

The performances in the film are pretty good and are led by the unusual star, Colin Farrell. Unusual only in the fact that Farrell has managed to get on the “A-list” without a real bona-fide hit (save for Minority Report). While I think the guy has definitely got skills, he has yet to prove that alone, he can manage to be a major box-office draw. Pacino phones in his role here, but he still manages to phone one in better than most can do on their better days. Also, Bridget Moynahan plays a nice supporting role and manages to breathe some life into her character that may or may not have been originally called for.

The Recruit was definitely entertaining, but not without some twists-and-turns that caused you to shake your head a bit and realize that while the film was entertaining, it wasn’t without some absurd, suspension of belief moments. Even so, The Recruit moved along quite nicely and held my interest from beginning to end.

The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio B+ / Bonus C+

Touchstone presents The Recruit in a somewhat cropped presentation (or expanded depending on how you look at it) with a 1.77:1 anamorphically enhanced widescreen presentation. The film was presented in theaters in a 2.35:1 scope and it has been expanded vertically for its debut on DVD. Everything was properly proportioned and symmetrical and maintained a very crisp and detailed image throughout. To the naked eye, the stretch doesn’t seem to have caused any problems with Touchstone’s DVD presentation and the film looks as crisp and clean as a THX-certified transfer should.

The image was very strong and detailed at all times, with excellent clarity and depth. The film’s color palette is fairly generic and goes from the stark and sterile environments of the hallowed halls of the CIA headquarters to the deep, forested environment of “The Farm”. Much of the film was shot in dark interiors and exteriors and Touchstone managed to maintain very solid black levels throughout the film, with excellent shadow detail and delineation. There was never any breakup or murkiness during these scenes and the image was consistently strong and very detailed. Colors were accurately reproduced in The Recruit and there was never any bleeding or oversaturation noted, while fleshtones remained warm and pleasing as well.

Flaws with the print were minor, as some very slight edge enhancement was noted in a couple of areas. In a couple of the darker scenes, I did notice a little bit of grain, but it was definitely of the non-distracting variety. Other than that however, the master print seemed to be in pristine condition and there were hardly any instances of flakes, flecks, or scratches. Ultimately, The Recruit managed to be a very pleasing visual experience.

The Recruit gets two very impressive audio tracks – a Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mix – and while I have seen some negligible differences between Dolby and DTS of late on certain films, I really feel that the DTS track managed to maintain the definitive edge here. DTS simply managed to add a bit more depth and fullness to the film than what was found in its Dolby Digital counterpart and it was most notable during the few action scenes contained in the film, as well as moments that featured Klaus Badelt’s very appropriate and tension-filled score. Low end was also a bit more forceful and aggressive in the DTS track as well.

The film sounds really nice, but your surrounds are only impressively engaged during the action scenes spaced out during the film. However, it’s these moments that really make the track worthwhile. It’s not that the track is bad except during the action scenes, it’s simply the fact that the track really lit up when the action kicked in, with some really nice separation and dynamics. The sound effects – namely gunshots and screeching vehicles – sound really nice in the track and they always seem to start and end from their proper place within the soundstage.

While most of the film remains in the forward spectrum, there were some gentle ambient moments created throughout the film that added to the overall viewing experience. And while there was some nice reinforcement for the score and effects, the film’s dialogue was top priority and it remained front and center at all times, without any harshness or edginess detected.

Other tracks on Touchstone’s DVD include a French track in Dolby 5.1, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

Touchstone has added some decent extras to supplement The Recruit and things start off with an Audio Commentary with director Roger Donaldson and actor Colin Farrell. The duo genuinely seem to enjoy getting back together to record the track and their chemistry makes for a rather entertaining and engaging piece. Donaldson provides many of the technical aspects on the shoot, while Farrell is relegated to providing us with interesting and amusing anecdotes and stories from behind-the-scenes. The duo discuss the cooperation of the “real CIA” and how integral they were in helping create the film, as well as discuss their general feelings about what it was like making The Recruit, shooting on location (and on set), using CGI to accomplish certain effects, working with the other actors, and so on. This was a pretty entertaining track, without much in the way of dead moments or simple scene narration. Donaldson and Farrell do a great tag team effort here and fans will definitely enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Next up is Spy School: Inside the CIA Training Program (15:57) and without giving away more information than is possible when dealing with a Top Secret organization, it gives us a brief indoctrination to what life is really like for trainees at the CIA. Hosted by Recruit principals, the supplement focuses on 25-year CIA veteran Chase Brandon, a consultant for the film. Brandon gives us a lot of background information on how agents are recruited, the processes and interviews that they are required to go through, and even some of the training the agents receive. Using actual CIA training footage, clips from the film, and interview footage with Chase Brandon, we get a very interesting and engaging piece.

Lastly, we have four Deleted Scenes - “James Serves Drunk” (1:12), “Grab Your Balls” (0:34), “Cocktail Party – Eliot Is Cut” (3:46), and “James Brings Beer To Zack” (0:59) – and while none of the scenes would have really added to the film, they were nice to have included nonetheless. Each of the scenes may be viewed with or without available commentary from Donaldson and Farrell, although their revelations about the scenes being cut are pretty standard. (Interestingly enough, these deleted scenes are all presented in 2.35:1, rather than the 1.77:1 scope that the DVD is presented in.)

The disc opens up with some skippable trailers (via the –MENU- button) for The Hot Chick, Shanghai Knights, and Bringing Down The House and also contains a THX Optimizer under the setup options, as well as a DVD Registration link in the extras.

The Recruit is an above-average thriller that’s definitely worthy of a weekend rental for most. With its superb video transfer and finely tuned audio, Touchstone has really added to the viewing experience of the film and has pushed the DVD into the “strong buy” category for fans of The Recruit or its stars. While the lack of supplements may disappoint some, the foundations of the disc are technically solid and The Recruit was an entertaining way to blow a couple of hours.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5882 Stars Number of Votes: 34
12 3:
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