The Recruit

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For the episode of the TV series Dad's Army, see The Recruit (Dad's Army). For the first book of the CHERUB series, see The Recruit (novel).
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 $101,191,884[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]


James Clayton (Colin Farrell), a computer programming expert at MIT, is recruited by senior Central Intelligence Agency instructor Walter Burke (Al Pacino) to test for a position with the Agency. After witnessing an extraordinary demonstration of Clayton's computer skills, Burke further tests the intelligence of Clayton with an open puzzle encoded on the sports page of a newspaper. Wanting to find information concerning his father whom he suspects was a CIA operative who disappeared when Clayton was a child, Clayton agrees to his recruitment. After passing numerous psychometric, psychoanalytical, aptitude, and polygraph 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 brought to an isolated cell and tortured for several days but refuses to give up the names of his CIA instructors. When the interrogators provide evidence that his defiance is contributing to Layla's suffering, Clayton relents and names Burke. The rear wall of the cell then opens to reveal Burke, Layla, and the other recruits sitting in the lecture theater at The Farm, having witnessed the entire event; the kidnapping being just another training exercise. Clayton is cut from the program, but Burke arrives at his hotel some time later to advise Clayton his dismissal was staged and he has been appointed a non-official cover (NOC) operative. Burke assigns Clayton to spy on Layla, claiming the CIA has evidence she's a mole for a foreign intelligence service attempting to steal a top secret computer virus from the CIA's database. Clayton is provided a job as a low-level CIA data-entry processor and enters a romantic relationship with Layla. He eventually uncovers proof that she is removing the virus piece-by-piece using a USB flash drive.

Clayton surveils Layla as she brush-passes a note to her contact and follows the man through the Union Station. After a brief scuffle, Clayton kills him and discovers the contact is Zack (Gabriel Macht), a CIA agent who had also been a recruit at The Farm. When confronted with the evidence, Layla explains to Clayton she was officially sanctioned to test the security protocols of CIA headquarters by attempting to remove a fake virus, and Zack was a NOC agent. Clayton, by virtue of his familiarity with computer programs, is skeptical and reports his suspicions to Burke who initially congratulates Clayton on passing "the final test." Burke is caught in a lie, when he tries to convince Clayton his gun is loaded with blanks. Clayton fires a shot proving otherwise but flees when Burke knocks the gun from his grip. Burke chases Clayton through an abandoned warehouse, and boasts that he organized the entire scheme to sell the virus for $3 million. Held at gunpoint, Clayton agrees to hand over the virus, only to show that he has been broadcasting Burke's admission from his laptop back to CIA headquarters. Burke becomes incensed and chases Clayton outside where a S.W.A.T. team waiting. Clayton's broadcast was faked. The CIA were there to arrest Clayton and had no knowledge of Burke's treachery. Believing himself to be caught, Burke rails at his unjust treatment by the CIA, allowing the agents to conclude that Burke is the traitor. Burke realizes he incriminated himself and draws his gun, committing suicide-by-cop. Afterward, Layla consoles Clayton before he heads back to CIA headquarters for debriefing.

On the drive to Langley, Virginia, Assistant Director of Operations Dennis Slayne (Karl Pruner) makes a comment alluding that Clayton's father was a NOC agent when he died.

Main cast[edit]


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[edit]

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 a positive review with B+, he stated, "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[edit]

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

External links[edit]