Never have any Irishman's eyebrows been so bold, nor his thick shamrock tongue so thoroughly disguised as that of Collin Farrell. Farrell is one of those up and comers who seems to pop up everywhere. One of those people we're all convinced is a star, but are never quite sure just exactly what he's been in. Despite a starring role in The Recruit, Farrell's anonymity will likely continue, until he makes his splash as a baddie in the mega-pushed Daredevil.
Flavor of the month he may be, but his admirable and over-publicized screen presence is the key to selling folks on The Recruit, in which Farrell stars as the world's most physically fit computer geek recruited into nothing less than the CIA. Farrell is James Clayton, a recent MIT graduate who minored in looking sexy, and now hits the job fairs selling custom made computer software substituted into the film as cheap foreshadowing. Rather than spend his lifetime locked away in a basement at Dell, Clayton allows himself to be baited into joining the CIA by crustily mysterious government recruiter Walter Burke (Al Pacino).
Clayton is lured into joining Burke at the CIA training center, affectionately called "The Farm", with veiled hints about information regarding the secret life of his perished father. Clayton's father subplot really never goes anywhere, except as cheap emotional fodder, but his time in CIA training does. Director Roger Donaldson really has some interesting ideas about "The Farm" and CIA training in general. Because of that, it's here that The Recruit really works as a film. Pacino is brilliant as their up front and cagey CIA instructor, having made the transition from recruiter to teacher, in a particularly poignant verbal confrontation with Farrell. Collin himself has a truly visceral screen presence that translates into truly memorable intensity as he channels into what could have been a fairly one-dimensional character.
Eventually, class is out, and Farrell ends up back in the real world dealing with real… or perhaps imagined intrigue as an undercover operative. Though "The Farm" covers a significant portion of the film, it's a shame that they couldn't have spent more there, since the rest, a bevy of fairly obvious and predictable techie subplot, is pretty humdrum, run of the mill stuff. After training, The Recruit turns into just another hi-tech spying flick, which while not unenjoyable, isn't exactly going to make your head swim. The savior here is the continuing presence of the untraditionally sexy Bridget Moynahan as Layla, Clayton's suspicious and swimmer shouldered love interest
For the most part though, The Recruit just lets what could have had great potential fade away in the face of shiny computer viruses and glib phrases about games. What we have here is an engaging movie, probably worth a look or two, but likely to be forgotten as soon as Farrell appears in Daredevil missing all of his hair not part and parcel to his eyebrows.