There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Thematically, there’s a lot happening in The Recruit, an otherwise routine spy thriller. First up, it’s an example of the bad-(surrogate-)dad fable, in which a charismatic roue attempts to lead an apprentice astray. (Think Training Day, or—because Al Pacino is the father figure this time—The Devil’s Advocate or Scent of a Woman.) Then there’s the alleged post-Sept. 11 spike in patriotism, which reportedly led to increased applications to the CIA—a development here held up against the customary Hollywood assumption that most top politicians, cops, and spies are as corrupt as studio execs. But in the moment of Joe Millionaire and The Bachelorette, The Recruit’s timeliest motif is its exercise in X-treme dating: Crusty CIA recruiter and instructor Walter Burke (Pacino) essentially assigns rookie spooks James Clayton (Colin Farrell) and Layla Moore (Bridget Moynihan) to seduce and betray each other. Orphaned, perennially stubbly computer whiz James and attractive (hey, I wish there were more to her, too) Layla obligingly hop into bed, but their idea of postcoital intimacy is to place electronic bugs on each other’s clothing. This hormonal charge aside, the movie is as commonplace as its Toronto-area locations, which pose as Boston, Washington, and exurban Virginia. Australian-expat director Roger Donaldson, who made the credible Thirteen Days and the preposterous No Way Out, knows something about D.C., however, and did shoot some scenes here: After training, James and Layla both get apartments in the city rather than characterless NoVa, and a Union Station chase sequence travels through much of the building before descending into L.A.’s subway. Yet despite the local vistas and some assistance from the CIA’s new director of cinematic disinformation—sorry, “film industry liaison”—The Recruit never really ranges beyond the borders of Hollywoodland. —Mark Jenkins