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The Recruit is a 2003 American 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, receiving mixed reviews from critics and grossing $101 million worldwide.[3]

The Recruit
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoger Donaldson
Produced by
Written by
Music byKlaus Badelt
CinematographyStuart Dryburgh
Edited byDavid Rosenbloom
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • January 25, 2003 (2003-01-25) (Febio Film Festival)
  • January 31, 2003 (2003-01-31) (United States)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$46 million[1]
Box office$101.2 million[2]


When James Clayton was young, his father was killed in 1990 in a Peruvian plane crash for unknown reasons. In college, Clayton has computer interests and analytical skills that, when he goes job hunting, are sought by industry and government. A software program he has helped developed is called "Spartacus". It can hijack nearby computers through a wireless network. Senior CIA instructor Walter Burke attracts Clayton's interest in the agency by implying that Clayton’s father worked for the agency.

He starts being evaluated and trained at the Farm, a CIA training facility, in skills that would be needed by agents. He comes in contact with another trainee, Layla Moore. During one of the exercises, Clayton and Moore are kidnapped. He is tortured by men that say Moore is also being tortured. The torture stops when Clayton is about to give up identities of people associated with the farm. The program trainees have seen the torture exercise Clayton was subjected to on closed-circuit television. The trainees are cautioned that the lesson to be learned from it is that they should not be caught.

Afterwards, Burke personally approaches Clayton and proclaims that he in fact passed the class at its head; he actually endured torture longer than any other recruit in the past 15 years, making him suitable for a Non-official cover position. This necessitated him being summarily washed out to preserve his civilian status. And Burke already has a mission for Clayton; he suspects that Moore is a sleeper and hopes the friendship between Clayton and Moore can be used to catch her. He arranges for Clayton to work at CIA Headquarters to monitor Moore. Clayton finds that she is smuggling software out of the CIA in pieces via a USB flash drive hidden in a secret compartment in her coffee thermos.

Clayton watches Moore as she passes a note to her contact, and then he follows the contact through Union Station. When the contact fires at Clayton, shots are returned that kill him. Clayton finds out that the contact is Zack, another trainee and non-official cover. Clayton pursues Moore and confronts her about what he knows is going on. Moore tells him that she is a CIA agent assigned to see if the software she sought could be removed from Headquarters. Clayton is confused but eventually accepts what Moore has said.

Clayton reports back to Burke, who congratulates Clayton on passing the final test. Clayton responds by demanding to know why Zack was killed. Burke tries to pass off the killing as staged since Clayton's gun was loaded with blanks. Clayton fires his gun at the back window of the car to verify what Burke has said and when the window bursts Clayton knows that Burke is lying. Burke chases Clayton through an abandoned building and boasts that he organized the scheme to sell the virus for $3 million.

Clayton escapes long enough to set up a laptop and load the "Spartacus" software with the intent to broadcast Burke's confession. When the CIA comes to arrest Clayton for Zack's death, Burke, believing that he is finally caught, rails about his dissatisfaction with his career. The agents conclude that Burke is the real traitor and instruct the officers on site to target him instead. Burke realizes too late that Clayton did not have the time to set up the Spartacus software and that the agents were targeting Clayton until he made his speech. Having incriminated himself, he reiterates that he was an excellent recruiter, having correctly determined that Clayton was CIA material. He then draws his gun, forcing the agents to kill him. Moore consoles Clayton before he rides back with the agents for debriefing. In the van, Assistant Director of Operations Dennis Slayne 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.



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).[4] 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.


Box officeEdit

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.[2]


Reviews of the film were mixed. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 43% based on 167 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."[3] Metacritic gave it an average score of 56 out of 100 from the 36 reviews it collected.[5]

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."[6] 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."[7]

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 interoffice romance at the CIA."[8] 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."[9]

CIA reactionEdit

In 2009, the movie was reviewed by new CIA employees, who wrote that although "everyone in the Agency believes the movie is ridiculous", the movie is "entertaining" and that "all of the covert service trainees watched the film on the bus going into training" for "comic relief".[10]

According to T.J. Waters (a former Farm student), The Recruit is "a mediocre movie" in which he "recognize[s] a lot of similarities with the real Farm"[11].


  1. ^ "The Recruit (2003)". The Wrap. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "The Recruit (2003)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "The Recruit". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  4. ^ Variety, November 24, 2005: Kinowelt buys Epsilon Linked 2014-01-13
  5. ^ "The Recruit". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  6. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (January 15, 2003). "The Recruit Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ McCarthy, Todd (January 20, 2003). "The Recruit Review". Variety. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  9. ^ Clark, Mike (January 30, 2003). "'Recruit' fails to follow through". Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  10. ^ "Studies in Intelligence Vol. 53, No. 2" (PDF). August 24, 2009. Retrieved June 25, 2017.
  11. ^ T.J. Waters, Class 11: My Story Inside the CIA's First Post-9/11 Spy Class,

External linksEdit