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The Recruit

The Recruit
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Produced by Jeff Apple
Gary Barber
Roger Birnbaum
Written by Roger Towne
Kurt Wimmer
Mitch Glazer
Music by Klaus Badelt
Cinematography Stuart Dryburgh
Edited by David Rosenbloom
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures (US)
Constantin Film (Germany)
Release dates
  • January 31, 2003 (2003-01-31) (US)
  • January 15, 2004 (2004-01-15) (Germany)
Running time
115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $101.2 million[1]

The Recruit is a 2003 American-German spy thriller film, directed by Roger Donaldson and starring Al Pacino, Colin Farrell and Bridget Moynahan. It was produced by Epsilon Motion Pictures and released in North America by Touchstone Pictures on January 31, 2003. The film received mixed reviews from critics.[2] The film's tagline is: "In the C.I.A. nothing is what it seems."


  • Plot 1
  • Main cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
    • Critical response 4.1
    • Box office 4.2
  • References 5
  • External links 6


James Clayton (Colin Farrell), a computer programming expert at MIT, is offered an interview by senior Central Intelligence Agency instructor Walter Burke (Al Pacino) for a position with the Agency. After witnessing a demonstration of Clayton's skills, Burke tests Clayton with a puzzle encoded on the sports page of a newspaper. Clayton agrees to be recruited because he wants information about his missing father, whom he suspects was a CIA agent.

After passing numerous psychometric, psychoanalytic, aptitudinal, and polygraphic tests, Clayton is taken to The Farm, a CIA training facility. There, Burke and other instructors teach the candidates the skill sets of espionage, covert operation protocols, and intelligence gathering techniques. During a surveillance exercise, Clayton and fellow recruit Layla Moore (Bridget Moynahan) are kidnapped by men apparently from a foreign intelligence service. Clayton is tortured in a cell for several days but refuses to give up the names of his instructors. When the interrogators threaten to hurt Layla, Clayton gives in. The rear wall of the cell opens to reveal Burke, Layla, and the other recruits sitting in a lecture theater, having witnessed the whole event, which was a set-up.

Clayton is cut from the program, but Burke arrives at his hotel room and claims that the dismissal itself was staged, and that Clayton has become a non-official cover (NOC), the most exclusive operative. Clayton's first mission is to spy on Layla, whom Burke suspects is a mole, and who is trying to steal a computer virus from the headquarters. Burke gives Clayton a low-level desk job at the headquarters so he can get close to Layla. Clayton finds proof that Layla is removing the virus piece by piece using a USB flash drive.

Clayton watches Layla as she secretly passes a note to her contact, and follows the contact through Union Station. After a brief scuffle, Clayton kills him and discovers that he was Zack (Gabriel Macht), a fellow recruit back at The Farm. When Clayton confronts Layla, she cries and protests that it was a security exercise, and that Zack was a NOC. Torn between two conflicting statements, Clayton decides to suspect Burke and trust Layla, believing her show of emotion to be genuine.

Clayton reports back to Burke, who congratulates Clayton on passing the final test. Clayton responds by demanding to know why Zack was killed, but Burke replies that Clayton's gun was loaded with blanks, and that Zack's death was a ruse. However, Clayton tries to fire his gun, Burke deflects and shoots the rear window instead, proving that Burke is lying. Burke chases Clayton through an abandoned ware-house, and boasts that he organized the scheme to sell the virus for $3 million.

Clayton pretends that he was broad-casting Burke's speech to the CIA. When the CIA comes to arrest Clayton for Zack's death, Burke rails about his dissatisfaction with his career. The CIA agents conclude that Burke is the real target. When Burke realizes that he incriminated himself, he draws his gun, forcing the CIA to shoot and kill him. Layla consoles Clayton before he rides back with the CIA agents for debriefing. In the van, Assistant Director of Operations Dennis Slayne (Karl Pruner) makes a comment suggesting that Clayton's father was a NOC agent when he died, and Clayton now realizes that some of Burke's statements had in fact been true.

Main cast


The film was produced by Gary Barber's and Roger Birnbaum's production company Spyglass Entertainment, with financial support from Disney's Touchstone Pictures and German film financing company Epsilon Motion Pictures (which was owned by the Kirch Group at the time).[3] It was mainly filmed in Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada, with some landmark scenes, such as that from the Iwo Jima Memorial by the Arlington National Cemetery, shot in and around Washington, D.C.


Critical response

Reviews of the film were mixed. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 43% based on 163 reviews with, an average rating of 5.5 out of 10. The site's consensus states: "This polished thriller is engaging until it takes one twist too many into the predictable."[2] Metacritic gave it an average score of 56 out of 100 from the 36 reviews it collected.[4]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a positive review, with a B+ score. He wrote, "From the get-go, The Recruit is one of those thrillers that delights in pulling the rug out from under you, only to find another rug below that."[5] Carla Meyer of San Francisco Chronicle also gave a positive review to the film, stating, "Pacino and Farrell bring a wary curiosity to their early scenes, with Farrell displaying a palpable hunger for praise and Pacino a corresponding mastery of how to hook somebody by parceling out compliments. They're a swarthier version of Robert Redford and Brad Pitt in Spy Game -- only The Recruit is more about mind games."[6]

Todd McCarthy of Variety stated, "The whole picture may be hokey, but the first part is agreeably so, the second part not. At the very least, one comes away with a new appreciation of the difficulty of inner-office romance at the CIA."[7] Mike Clark of USA Today gave a mixed review to the film, stating, "Nothing is ever what it seems, but still, nothing's very compelling in The Recruit, a less-than-middling melodrama whose subject matter and talent never click as much as its credits portend."[8]

Box office

The film was released on January 31, 2003, and earned $16,302,063 in its first weekend. Its final gross is $52,802,140 in the United States and $48,389,744 internationally, for a total of $101,191,884.[1]


  1. ^ a b "The Recruit (2003)".  
  2. ^ a b "The Recruit".  
  3. ^ Kinowelt buys EpsilonVariety, November 24, 2005: Linked 2014-01-13
  4. ^ "The Recruit". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  5. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (January 15, 2003). "The Recruit Review".  
  6. ^ Meyer, Carla (January 31, 2003). "'"Colin Farrell put to the test as CIA trainee in taut spy-school thriller 'The Recruit.  
  7. ^ McCarthy, Todd (January 20, 2003). "The Recruit Review".  
  8. ^ Clark, Mike (January 30, 2003). Recruit' fails to follow through"'". Retrieved October 14, 2011. 

External links

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