Farrell's CIA Recruit all set to mix it up with Pacino

Preview by Jack Foley

US REACTION: COLIN Farrell is currently riding high at the top of the US Box Office after his latest thriller, The Recruit, opened at number one over the weekend of January 31 to Feb 2 with an estimated $16.5 million haul (£10m).

Co-starring Al Pacino, the film takes a look behind the closed doors of the CIA, as Pacino’s grizzled veteran, Walter Burke, recruits Farrell’s promising rookie, James Clayton, and puts him to the test at the Agency’s secret facility, The Farm. As he begins to come to terms with his role within the Agency, however, Clayton is assigned the task of finding a mole within his tutor group, and is forced into a cat-and-mouse game with his friends and allies (including Bridget Moynahan’s love interest).

Farrell has seldom been far from the headlines since his groundbreaking debut in Joel Schumacher's Tigerland in 2000, since when he has appeared alongside some of the top names in Hollywood, including Tom Cruise (Minority Report) and Bruce Willis (Hart's War).

But he has so far failed to really ignite at the Box Office and the performance of The Recruit will, no doubt, give his money-making credentials a much-needed shot in the arm. Needless to say, the presence of a certain Britney Spears on his arm, during the US premiere of the film, helped to gain it a much higher profile than it may have secured had it been left to its own devices.

Critics in America, meanwhile, have been generally kind - although not glowing.

Entertainment Weekly awarded it a B+ and stated that it is 'a CIA thriller that plays some very tricky and entertaining spy games', adding that 'Colin Farrell, after stealing scenes from Tom Cruise in 'Minority Report,' shoots across the screen with the authority of a sleek bullet'.

The Washington Post referred to it as 'a compelling, if throaway drama', while the New York Post stated that 'The Recruit may have a storyline as generic as its title, but in the explosive Pacino and the smoldering Farrell, it has a pair of stars who are not as easily dismissed'.

Variety, meanwhile, wrote that 'for more than an hour, The Recruit is slickly entertaining escapism that deftly plays into common fantasies about what training to be a CIA op might be like', while the New York Times wrote that 'everything else in The Recruit may be tiresomely predictable, but [Pacino], at least, is not'.

Less positive, however, was Hollywood Reporter, which warned that 'the top-billed Al Pacino and Colin Farrell bring plenty of emotional oomph to their shallow and routine characters, but audiences may find these spy games somewhat disappointing'.

Likewise, the Los Angeles Times wrote that 'The Recruit is little more than a fairy tale, one in which the prince gets to shoot the ball to smithereens', while CNN opined that it 'is not a bad film, it's just not a very good one'.

Hollywood.com, meanwhile, added that 'for a ringside seat at the secret CIA training process, The Recruit delivers a somewhat fascinating view. Yet, if not powered by Colin Farrell's strong performance, the predictable film would ultimately fall flat on its face'.

In general, though, few critics really gave it a pounding, while Farrell seems to be recruiting a bigger following with each new release. Next up is Daredevil, released simultaneously in the US and UK on February 14. Advance word suggests that he may, once again, be the best thing about the film.

Indielondon will deliver its verdict on both films shortly...

POSTED EARLIER (The story behind the movie): FORMER Ballykissangel star, Colin Farrell, has enjoyed something of a whirlwind ride to the Hollywood A-list, bearing in mind that it has only been three years since his breakthrough role in Joel Schumacher’s Tigerland.

The Irish actor, who was born and raised in Castleknock in the Republic of Ireland, has since appeared alongside Bruce Willis in Hart’s War and, more impressively, Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

He will next be seen alongside Ben Affleck as the villain, Bullseye, in Daredevil and will then return to the starring role, as a CIA trainee in The Recruit, for which he shares top billing with screen icon, Al Pacino.

And the roles just keep on coming. After The Recruit, audiences will finally get to see him in Phone Booth, the long-delayed sniper thriller which reunites him with Schumacher, as well as political drama Veronica Guerin, alongside Cate Blanchett, and next summer’s actioner, SWAT, as Jim Street.

The Recruit, however, looks set to cement his reputation as a talented young actor to watch, given that he more than holds his own in the company of screen legend, Pacino.

Set in an era when any country’s first line of defence - intelligence - is more important than ever, Roger Donaldson’s thriller takes a look behind the closed doors of the CIA, as Pacino’s grizzled veteran, Walter Burke, recruits Farrell’s promising rookie, James Clayton, and puts him to the test at the Agency’s secret facility, The Farm.

Clayton regards the CIA’s mission as an intriguing alternative to an ordinary life and, in Burke, finds a father-figure, quickly rising to the top of his class in a bid to impress him. But just as he starts to come to terms with his role within the Agency, Clayton is assigned the task of finding a mole within his tutor group, and is forced into a cat-and-mouse game with his friends and allies (including Bridget Moynahan’s love interest), in which nothing is as it seems and where no one can be trusted.

Donaldson, a veteran of acclaimed political thrillers such as No Way Out and 13 Days, confesses to being inherently drawn to the topic of institutions such as the Pentagon and the CIA, which have such an impact on the world, but insists he was also attracted by the prospect of working with both Pacino and Farrell.

"Both Al and Colin are consummate actors," he explained. "They both have a wonderful connection to their craft. Al’s personality hints at a mercurial nature that goes hand in hand with being authoritative and mysterious. The audience has the feeling that when Al speaks, he knows things that he isn’t going to tell. Who better to play a spy?

"And Colin is an extremely talented and energetic actor, who’s not hampered by his good looks. He was always perfectly prepared for anything the script called for on any given day."

Farrell was equally impressed by his co-star and leapt at the chance to appear alongside him.

"I got on so well with him," he reflects. "I love the man dearly. He’s so smart and so talented. I didn’t expect him to be that funny, but he’s hilarious.

"I laughed so much. I have learned a lot - to change the takes, to keep it fresh. They say that no man is an island, but in terms of his talent, he is a whole country.

"I was over the moon when I found out that I’d be working with Al. He’s a legend, he’s a craftsman, he’s a genius. I loved working with him."

Of his own character, Farrell admits that he seems to be attracted to characters that have had, or are undergoing, a major life-changing experience.

"It’s always nice to have somewhere to go with characters. Start somewhere, go through something and end up in a different place. It’s nice to have that journey, where the events serve and sculpt the character as a human being, rather than the character being there just to serve the story."

And it is for this reason that Donaldson feels the film works so well.

"The Recruit is a psychological thriller, with twists and turns. You’re never sure who the good guys are, or what’s going to happen next," he explained. "It’s set in the CIA’s training facility but, at its heart, it’s a performance piece anchored by Al Pacino."

The film opens in the UK on March 28. Needless to say, Indielondon will deliver its verdict then - but keep checking back to this page to find out the critical reaction from America, when it opens...

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