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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

A Chip Off ye Olden Noc

The Recruit (2003) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Top marks MIT grad James Clayton (Colin Farrell) has tweaked the interest of the CIA in their nation­wide talent search. He's computer literate, multi­lingual, agile, and smart. Seasoned recruiter Walter Burke (Al Pacino) leverages Clayton's obsession with his father's death—he wonders if he were actually CIA—to bring him on board. He's driven by bus to the CIA's special training facility known as The Farm where he's taught and tested in various aspects of spy trade­craft, along with a passel of other recruits. The cream rises to the top.

After a dramatic, fake expulsion he's given non-official cover operative (Noc) status—perhaps even off the books—to ferret out contacts for a known mole in the Science & Technology Division of Langley. Spooky stuff, this. He's also given a gun. What he lacks in experience he makes up for in natural talent or dumb luck.


Studying non-linear cryptology at MIT Clayton devised a program that could “turn any broad­cast terminal into its slave.” He dubbed the program Sp@rtacus after Spartacus à la revolt of the slaves. Says the proverb, (Prov. 22:28) “Remove not the ancient land­mark, which thy fathers have set.” Originally that had more to do with preserving property rights, but here perpetu­ating a land­mark name would serve well for marketing.

(Prov. 22:29) “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.” James Clayton was top in his class, athletic, and versatile. No wonder he came to the attention of a top CIA recruiter.

(Prov. 23:1-3) “When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.” Here is a warning against the processed food rich rulers ate. The simple fare of peasants was healthier. James rejected the swill he was offered in (mock) captivity for fear it was poisoned or drugged.

(Prov. 23:4-5) “Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make them­selves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” Burke was care­ful to spell out to his recruits on day one that they're not in it for the money as the salary they'd pull down wouldn't go far.

(Prov. 23:6-8) “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.” The CIA taught how to observe the dilation of the pupil to tell if some­one was lying. A true socio­path, how­ever, has an evil eye not registering the difference between his own truth and objective truth. Burke wined and dined Clayton at the Dragon Pagoda on the (second) best crab meat in the world. He had no idea what his instructor was getting him into, but he is not going to like it when he finds out. The film stops short of showing vomiting, but there is mention of it in Colin Farrell's DVD audio commentary, thanking the caterers for “Montezuma's Revenge in the fourth week” as their particular credit scrolls on by.

(Prov. 23:9) “Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.” Just when Clayton needs to employ his Sp@rtacus program he loses net­work connection. Rather than keep trying with the same result, he goes on to plan B.

(Prov. 23:10-11) “Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless: For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.” Burke at one point falsely discounts the 1990 star ★ on the board at Langley representing a fallen agent in the year Clayton's father perished. He also makes to leave Clayton in the lurch holding the bag. God has the last laugh, though.

(Prov. 23:12) “Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.” The training of the recruits is thorough and deserves attention by the nascent spies.

boy diving off board(Prov. 23:13-14) “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” We don't see any scenes from James Clayton's child­hood, how­ever we do see some snap­shots, and in them James's father Edward is physically connected to his son: spotting/catching him as he dives into a pool, arm on his shoulder, tucked in close. Further­more, James is a rough and ready agent, able to take his lumps in training, so we may suppose he received needed corporal punishment as a child enabling him to grow up into the fine man he is. At any rate he grew up in a series of countries—his dad worked for Shell Oil—where giving one's kid a deserved smack would be considered par for the course, not some­thing to be censured as in a namby-pamby American culture.

(Prov. 23:15-16) “My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine. Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.” Burke the father figure delighted in James's success, even at Burke's own expense, boasting he was a “scary judge of talent.”

(Prov. 23:17) “Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long. For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.” One candidate was cut for cheating on a written test.

(Prov. 23:19) “Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.” The recruits were there for having chosen good over evil, right over wrong.

(Prov. 23:20-21) “Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” James was an object lesson getting drunk after he was (supposedly) let go from the service. He was drunk in a motel room, empty pizza boxes scattered over his room.

Production Values

” (2003) was directed by Roger Donaldson. Its screenplay was written by Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer and Mitch Glazer. It stars Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, and Bridget Moynahan. Also appearing were Gabriel Macht, Karl Pruner and Eugene Lipinski. The leads were good.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for violence, sexuality and language. The pacing is tolerable but uneven, rushing ahead in places and slowing down in others.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Although heavy into clichés, “The Recruit” passes muster as a great thriller, with well defined plot points, and ultimately delivers good entertainment.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.