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Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Recruit (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

Senior HTF Member
Apr 24, 2006
Charlotte, NC
Real Name
Matt Hough

The Recruit (Blu-ray)
Directed by Roger Donaldson

Studio: Touchstone
Year: 2003
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p VC-1 codec
Running Time: 115 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio: PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese
MSRP: $ 34.99

Release Date: June 3, 2008
Review Date: May 25, 2008

The Film


We’re told continually in the first quarter hour of Roger Donaldson’s The Recruit that “nothing is as it seems,” and if the viewer doesn’t keep that in mind constantly, he’s going to be the victim of a series of mind-numbing surprise double-crosses. The first half of this action thriller is a solid docudrama procedural with multiple entertaining twists. Sadly, it doesn’t sustain its momentum in the second half as things go off kilter, the plot gets garbled, and the ending defies conventional logic. Yes, there are still surprises and fun to be had, but one must ignore several gaping plot holes and simply “go with the flow” for the picture to work as it wants to.

Super sharp computer programmer James Clayton (Colin Farrell) is one of several recruits brought to the CIA training facility known as “The Farm” by master CIA recruiter Walter Burke (Al Pacino). Along with the attractive Layla (Bridget Moynahan) and slick Zack (Gabriel Macht), Clayton participates in a series of CIA training operations. But for all the ups and downs he experiences during the training program, there is a gnawing sense of something not quite right. Clayton suspects his father was a CIA agent, and one of the things that draws him to the agency is the hope that he’ll eventually have his questions about his father answered.

One can’t say much more without spoiling the many surprises that await first-time viewers of The Recruit, but don’t say you weren’t warned when the rug gets pulled out from under you again and again. The film, like The Sting but not possessing half its smarts, exists to keep the audience from ever becoming complacent. The moment one lets his guard down, another shocking twist has been effected. The Roger Towne-Kurt Wimmer-Mitch Glazer screenplay is nothing if not a bag of tricks (additional ones cut from the finished film can be found in the bonus features), but one senses a desperation to the cobbled-together ending, a too-rushed tying together of loose ends that seems untidy compared to the tight construction of the film’s first half.

Colin Farrell had a run of put-upon roles at this point in his career (also witness Phone Booth and S.W.A.T.), so it’s no surprise he’s on top of his game for this outing (and his astonishing ability to effect an American accent to hide his natural Irish brogue continues to impress). Al Pacino is not quite as bombastic here as he might have been; Donaldson has likely reined him in to an extent, at least until he gets his showpiece near the end of the movie. He can be excessive, but just try to look away. Bridget Moynahan has just enough of the enigma about her to cast doubt on her true identity which works well for the finished product.

Donaldson stages three chases during the film with varying degrees of success. A climactic car chase is very well directed, sustaining tension for the inevitable payoff. A chase through a subway seems less assured, however, with some clumsy fighting and a somewhat anticlimactic end. A later pursuit through a warehouse is a bit better leading to the final denouement.

The Recruit certainly has enough surprises to satisfy without taking one’s breath away (and Donaldson’s ability to do that comes honestly as his work in No Way Out proved). It’s a fun thriller but not nearly as good as it should have been with these talented participants on hand.

Video Quality


The film’s 2.35:1 Panavision aspect ratio is presented in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. The transfer is spotless and very appealing to look at. It’s sharp and just colorful enough to pass muster though I might have preferred a bit more contrast and a slight increase in color saturation. Blacks are beautifully delivered with spot-on shadow detail. The film is divided into 16 chapters.

Audio Quality


The PCM 5.1 (4.6 Mbps) audio track has a wide soundscape that’s quite enveloping. Though there might have been a bit more activity in the surrounds at certain moments, what’s delivered is engrossing, and Klaus Badelt’s music is on continuous display throughout the movie. There are some nice instances of LFE channel rumblings, too.

Special Features


The disc features a delightful audio commentary by director Roger Donaldson and star Colin Farrell. They have a wonderful camaraderie and chat together like two old friends reminiscing about happy times spent together. Farrell’s language, of course, is known for its saltiness, so there are lots of bleeps on the commentary track.

The disc offers 4 deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or all together in one 6 ½ minute chunk. The viewer can also choose to have audio commentary by the two men or not with these clips. They’re presented in 480i.

“Spy School: Inside the CIA Training Program” is an interesting but somewhat superficial overview on the training facilities maintained by the CIA. This is discussed by the film’s CIA advisor Chase Brandon. Since obviously the places are top secret, clips from the film must be used to illustrate things Brandon discusses. This 480i featurette runs 16 minutes.

Disney offers another movie showcase feature with this Blu-ray: three supposedly reference quality scenes with sterling audio and video. They are the “bug house” scene, the subway chase, and the car chase. No excerpt lasts longer than 1 ½ minutes.

The Recruit is another in the Disney series of sDVD-to-Blu-ray rebate offers, so look for the rebate coupon inside your package.

In Conclusion

3/5 (not an average)

Not all films have to be great movies to offer an amusing evening of entertainment, and The Recruit fits that bill to perfection. A couple of decent bonus features are attached to an excellent audio and video presentation making this a candidate for a solid rental.

Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC


Who do we think I am?
Senior HTF Member
Dec 1, 1999
Gulf Coast
Real Name
Tony D.
what happened to the director's idea that movies at home should fill the screen.

this one on sd was released "full screen wide" at the
director's request i believe.

i havent seen the film since it was first released so this will be fun to watch again almost like watching it for the first time.

Jesse Skeen

Senior HTF Member
Apr 24, 1999
Never saw this because the theaters here suck and are overpriced, and the DVD was in the wrong ratio- don't care what the director says, he's still wrong. :) I've seen at least 2 Roger Donaldson movies which had visible reflections of boom mikes and camera equipment anyways, so what does he know.

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