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Film / The Recruit

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A 2003 spy thriller starring Colin Farrell as James Clayton, an MIT computer whiz, and Al Pacino as Walter Burke, a CIA operative who recruits James and becomes his instructor at The Farm, the CIA's field agent training facility. James seemingly washes out of the program after finally cracking during a kidnapping and interrogation "exercise" (which he had, as intended, believed was real) when the interrogators play on his feelings for fellow trainee Layla Moore (Bridget Moynahan). After James has left The Farm, however, Burke reveals to him that his washing out was a cover created to allow him to take a low level CIA job and help Burke ferret out a mole within the Agency who is trying to steal the top-secret computer virus program Ice-9... and the mole just might be Layla.


This film provides examples of:

  • Batman Gambit: An impressive one on Clayton's part.
  • Blatant Lies: After Clayton shoots Zack, Burke tells him that his gun was filled with blanks. It isn't. His whole scheme falls apart from there.
  • Disappeared Dad: Clayton's motivation
  • Engineered Public Confession: In the film's climax, Clayton tricks Burke into mistakenly believing that his boasts about his master plan have been broadcast to CIA headquarters. This causes Burke to start ranting about how the Agency has mistreated him in front of the CIA SWAT team which was there to arrest Clayton... causing them to raise their guns a few inches and target him.
  • The Handler: Subverted. James Clayton fails his CIA training and is dismissed, but then Burke reveals that it's all a cover for the agency to keep the dirty work that he'll be doing for them off the books, and that Burke has been assigned as his handler and only source of contact. In truth, Burke is a double agent who is using Clayton as an Unwitting Pawn.
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  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted. When Clayton shoots Zach in the chest, he's lying on the ground in visible agony for several seconds before expiring.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: Subverted. Clayton left to meet Burke, but comes back with groceries under the pretense of cooking her breakfast to cover it up.
  • The Reveal: Burke is corrupt, and Clayton was unknowingly helping him to steal the Virus from the CIA
  • Shout-Out: Ice-9, the virus, gets its name from the Kurt Vonnegut book Cat's Cradle. Burke even explains the reference in the film.
  • Soft Glass: Averted. Burke smashes his own head through a window to fake an injury from Clayton, and has to pull a good-sized hunk of glass out of his forehead afterwards.
  • Spy School: The Farm, where the majority of the film takes place.
  • Suicide by Cop: Burke at the end.
  • Training from Hell
    • Actually averted, if you pay attention, there aren't any drill sergeants screaming, but rather experts teaching the recruits their new tradecraft. Hell, when they are all woken up in the morning, the voice over the P.A. greets them with a "good morning" before politely telling them to head out. That being said, the things they are learning aren't exactly skills that you get right the first time and if you fail to learn quick, you are dropped.
    • And played straight given that part of the training is a faked abduction where the recruit is physically and psychologically abused and held in solitary confinement until breaking.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface


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