You've seen the trailer, and if you have an I.Q. higher than room temperature you've already guessed who the villain is, so why see the film? Well, why not, since there's so little else out there right now. "The Recruit," in case you've been home with the flu for a month, is the story of young James Clayton (Colin Farrell), who's snatched away from a Dell Computer recruiter by Walter Burke (the venerable Al Pacino, dyed black hair, Van Dyke and all), master recruiter for, yes, the CIA.
And Burke is in fact a master. "I am a scary judge of talent," he says, and he's not kidding. Along with young James he's also recruited young Layla (women seem not to have last names in films like this), played by the very attractive Bridget Moynihan. Their class of recruits is taken to a CIA compound called The Farm, where they are trained very intensively in what appear to be the most rudimentary spying techniques since Mata Hari. The CIA is obviously not going to lose sleep over what we learn from this film. But they are fun to watch.
And then Burke tells James that Layla is a mole, a sleeper planted inside the CIA, and that his job is to ferret out who her contact is at the notably unnamed foreign power. So that's the film, until - well, you already know who's really telling the truth and who, umm, isn't.
But still the film is pretty good fun, at least for the first two-thirds, after which it just tears itself into shreds (the villain, instead of just shooting poor James, must tell him everything out loud, giving our armed forces or whatever the time to arrive on the scene and stop it. Pacino is a master at this kind of thing; think "Devil's Advocate." He growls and leers and torments and gloats and always stays a step ahead of poor Farrell, who thinks his own dead father was a CIA operative but no one will tell him for sure. (There's a wall of stars at Langley, for those who died in the service of the Company, with dates of death but no names; there's only one star for 1990, when James's father, who supposedly worked for Shell Oil, died. Do you get it?)
A better film by far is Donaldson's 1987 thriller "No Way Out," about a Defense Department screwup; you should rent it. However, Farrell is attractive and handles his scriptwriting-101 lines with aplomb, as does Moynihan; they're good together and don't let the film down. But see it for a nice star turn by Pacino; he's almost worth the price of admission.