The Recruit

The Recruit (2003)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Deleted Scenes

I’ve always been a sucker for good thrillers and the trailer for "The Recruit" looked like a tasty treat. Starring Al Pacino and one of the currently hottest new actors in Hollywood, Colin Farrell, the movie seemed to have everything you’d be looking for in a film of the genre. So, here we are with the DVD of the movie, and to be honest with you, the movie did not disappoint.

The film revolves around James Clayton (Colin Farrell) on of the most talented graduates in the country and a bit of a computer wiz. He is approached by Walter Burke (Al Pacino), a recruited for the CIA. Realizing the talent of the young man, Burke plays his cards very efficiently and also uses Clayton’s relentless search for the truth behind his father’s death years earlier, to lure him into the Agency. Once has passed the initial test and examinations, Clayton becomes part of the program that teaches him to become the ultimate spy, but from the beginning his tutor and mentor Burke tells the new recruits that nothing is what it seems and that everything in this course is a test. Clayton passes them all with bravado, and soon falls in love with his fellow rookie, Layla (Bridget Moynahan). As the relationship between the two flourishes, Burke gives Clayton a special assignment – to root out a mole in their own organization. School is over…

The key element that propels the film forward at any given time are the plot twists. Some of them predictable, others coming entirely out of the left field, the movie does a marvelous job at keeping the viewer guessing. Is this reality, is it a test or is this just a game? You will alternately consider these answers but you will never have a conclusive answer until the film’s powerful final frames.
The performances in the movie are top notch and especially Al Pacino is once again showing is what he’s made of. Rough, yet likeable, enigmatic, yet seemingly open, close, yet somehow distant, he is never giving Clayton much to work with, but always enough to keep him wanting more.

The <$THX,THX>-certified DVD presents the movie in a 1.77:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio, using a slightly opened matte that adds a bit of picture information at the top and bottom of the screen. Interestingly, according to the DVD’s packaging, this is the aspect ratio of the film, as originally intended by director Roger Donaldson. The image is absolutely clean and clear without blemishes or defects. The transfer reveals an extraordinary level of detail and with its vibrant color reproduction, the movie always manages to please the eye. Black levels are solid and the many dark scenes of the film play out perfectly with good shadow detail and solid blacks. No distracting edge-enhancement is evident and the compression is also free of artifacts.

The DVD contains a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> track, as well as a <$DTS,DTS> track in English, complemented by a French <$DS,Dolby Surround> track. All tracks are equally impressive with a wide sound field and aggressive surround usage. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable, while the music is transparent and well integrated.

A <$commentary,commentary track> featuring director Roger Donaldson and actor Colin Farrell is part of the release, and in the track the two elaborate on a variety of aspects of the movie. The production and technical aspects of the making of the movie are covered here, as well as more personal anecdotes, and information about the workings of the CIA in general. Overall it is an entertaining and enlightening track that certainly adds to the release.

Four deleted scenes are also included on the disc, complete with optional commentary by the director. Sadly the scenes are not <$16x9,anamorphic> but otherwise of decent quality.

"Spy School" is a featurette that takes you into the CIA training program. In this 15-minute contains some actual training footage form the CIA, but the majority of footage shows still comes from the movie. Still, the featurette manages to explain in a little more detail how the CIA recruits its agents and how they go through their training, while also putting some of the scenes form the movie into their real-life context.

I found "The Recruit" to live up to my expectations. It is a solidly crafted movie with a story that relentlessly jolts you left and right. Nothing really is what it seems and you will constantly be surprised by the wicked turns in the story. The DVD comes with solid extras, so don’t hesitate. Give this one a spin.