Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Touchstone Pictures & Spyglass
Blu-ray: Touchstone Home Entertainment
Size: 50 GB
Case: Locking Blu-ray case
Release date: June 3rd, 2008
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Video codec: VC-1
English 5.1 Uncompressed (48 kHz/24-bit),
English DD 5.1 Surround, Spanish DD 2.0
Feature & Extras: English SDH, Spanish
• Feature Commentary by Roger Donaldson & Colin
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by
Roger Donaldson & Colin Farrell
• Spy School: Inside the CIA Training Program
Ever since David Cronenberg cashed in the
"nothing is as it seems" craze in his 1999 romp
eXistenZ, it seems audiences just can't get
enough of the concept. A proper film historian
could no doubt pinpoint the exact moment when
this idea first took shape in the movies –
probably in the silent era somewhere – but you
have to admit that the medium seems the
likeliest of art forms for such of sleights of
hand. David Mamet made quite the point of it in
any number of screenplays, for example, in his
aptly titled House of Games.
The Recruit was written primarily by
Roger Towne - not to be confused with Robert
Towne (Chinatown; Shampoo), whose
major credit thus far was his screenplay
adaptation of Malamud's novel, The Natural.
He was helped in this endeavor by Kurt Wimmer
and Mitch Glazer. The "nothing is as it seems"
line is repeated as a mantra of sorts by Al
Pacino's character. Walter Burke is a recruiter
for the CIA. Or, is he? Burke aggressively
recruits James Clayton (Colin Farrell), whose
father disappeared years ago in what may have
been a government covert operation. Did he? Was
he? Was it? Clayton joins up in hopes of finding
answers to his lifelong quest regarding his
father. He is eventually taken to some hidden
outpost, euphemistically referred to as "The
Farm." Or, is it? While in training he meets the
lovely and mysterious Layla Moore (Bridget
Moynahan). Might she be a "sleeper" in the
service of our country's enemies? Clayton
undergoes training in covert operations and is
given assignments to test what he has learned.
But are they pretend assignments or the real
thing? You can see where this is going. And you
either throw up your hands or go along for the
The score of 8 indicates a relative level of
excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs. The
score in parentheses represents: first, a value
on a ten-point scale for the image in absolute
terms; and, second, how that image compares to
what I believe is the current best we can expect
in the theatre.
The mood of this movie is dark, and this idea
continues right into the black levels, which
have a tendency to overwhelm the picture frame.
Unlike special effects movies, of which The
Recruit is not an example, the image is not
particularly sharp – at least not often. [That's
a lot of nots – like the movie. – LN] On the
other hand, it is filmlike. When I would see
such movies at the theatre I worried that the
projector focus wasn't spot on, or if there was
a problem with the projector itself. But the
evidence of high definition transfers of films
like this one is fairly conclusive that there
never was anything wrong with projection – alas.
Audio & Music:
I felt the sound mix skimped more than it should
have on the surround action, but it held my
interest all the same. Klaus Badelt's gloomily
rhythmic music, often placed center-stage, hits
the right note, however.
The very essence of simplicity.
Bleeps on the commentary track! I don't get it.
Colin Farrell's language notwithstanding, the
banter between him and director Donaldson is
congenial, like drinking buddies reminiscing
over the fun time it must have been to make this
movie. Don't expect any great insights into the
art form, however. There's also a quarter-hour
featurette hosted by Chase Brandon, the CIA
informant – er, technical advisor – for the
movie. He doesn't really reveal all that much.
We could hardly have expected else.
Given the material, I found The Recruit
well paced and well directed. I thought Farrell,
as the rabbit, and Pacino, as the hound,
complemented each other nicely, with Ms.
Moynahan offering just the right amount of
mystery to keep us guessing until the climax.
The fact that this film is on Blu-ray can only
be a good thing in the usual ways. Should make a
June 1st, 2008