As Al Pacino constantly reminds us in The Recruit, nothing is ever as it seems. This film, while not a great effort, is vintage Pacino. Strong performances are also to be found from Colin Farrell and Bridget Moynahan, but as usual it is Pacino who steals the show. The Recruit is actually two different films in one. The first half is an intruding look at CIA training at the fabled “farm”. Once the training ends, an effective spy/counterspy plot takes over that won’t lose momentum. You’ll find enough surprises to keep even the most irritating “I knew it” viewers quiet for much of the film.
James Clayton (Farrell) is about to become a rich man. He’s convinced the brass at Dell to buy his spy software for untold millions. His life is forever changed when he is recruited by CIA talent scout Burke (Pacino) who dangles tidbits about Clayton’s father and a possible CIA connection. Once recruited, Clayton endures a brutal training. Once released from “the farm”, Clayton embarks on his first mission: To stop a CIA mole he happens to love.
The Recruit’s DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks are pretty much standard stuff. Don’t look for dynamic highs or lows and you won’t be disappointed. Rear speakers remain mostly mute throughout. Dialogue is fine but once again nothing really dramatic. The score is often lost and never exhibits anything close to brilliance. Most of the sound stays in the mid-ranges, rarely venturing out.
I must admit to being a bit lost about the video transfer of this film. The theatrical aspect ratio was a wide screen 2.35:1. This disc gives us a 1.78:1 image that is advertised as being Donaldson’s choice. The box also informs us that you will see more of the film this way than was available in theatres. Unless the original print was 1.78:1 and cropped for theatres at 2.35:1 the “get more” line is a load of crap. Everyone knows 2.35:1 gives you more than 1.78:1. The obvious answer here is an aspect ratio intended to fit comfortably on today’s wide screen monitors which are typically 1.78:1.
Enough about the aspect. Colors are mediocre on this transfer. Although everything is very clean, hues tend to appear soft throughout most of the film. Blacks are rather impressive though, displaying good depth and detail. Outside scenes are noticeably inferior to studio shots. You won’t find any film artifacts or specks. You will find one of the worst layer changes in recent memory. It took two of my machines a full second or more to change.
This disc includes four deleted scenes with optional an audio commentary. All four scenes needed to be cut and add nothing to the presentation. There is also an interesting “Spy School: Inside the CIA Training” featurette. It comes across like an “inside” look at CIA training, but plays out more like a comparison with certain aspects of the film. There is no trailer in what I see as a disturbing trend.
There is a commentary track by Ronald Donaldson (director) and Colin Farrell. This one reminds me of a football commentary. Donaldson provides the “play by play” dealing mostly with the how’s and why’s in production, while Farrell gives us the “color”, telling jokes and remembering how much fun it was to work on the film.
Menus are nice, and are set up to appear as if you’re opening a CIA dossier.Unfortunately, no insert is included in with this DVD. At first I thought mine was just missing, but after checking with others I discovered there isn’t one. At least they could have provided us with a chapter list.
I liked this film when I saw it in theatres and still do, but I am disappointed with the release overall. I’m afraid the trend to cutting corners might be becoming a reality. As DVD becomes the “standard” for home video it loses its serious videophile status. The studios believe that trailers and even wide screen presentations only appeal to the dedicated viewers who once owned laserdiscs when VHS was the standard. It’s probable that even the studios aren’t sure yet which way to go for future releases. After all, “everything is a test”.