The jury has been out for sometime as to whether Colin Farrell is the superstar in waiting, that Hollywood has marked him as. This film will certainly do no harm and propels him towards the pedestal so hastily prepared for him.

Clayton (Farrell) is the brightest programmer geek type who also happens to be athletic and good looking. Modern movies dictate that he must also have emotional baggage and this is neatly provided by a missing father, who may or may not, have worked for the CIA.

Burke (Pacino) arrives on the scene to recruit Clayton into the CIA. Initially this approach is dismissed as “The CIA is just a bunch of fat white guys who fell asleep when we needed them most”. Bearing in mind this is a movie clearly much assisted by representatives of the CIA, this is a bold negative view to be broadcast post 9/11. Presumably the CIA have polls suggesting this is the public view and this is part of a concerted PR exercise to help dispel this myth. There are many scenes set at the “fictional” CIA training facility, otherwise known as the “Farm”, which of course the CIA in real life denies exists.

This all adds to the mystique, which might explain why so many want to join.

As Burke says, “It’s not for the money”.

Pacino, who is born to play roles such as this, is a 25 year career agent, now training the newest and brightest. He is a “scary chooser of talent” and clearly has Clayton marked for great things.

Choosing between a parallel hum drum existence with IT Firm “Dell” on $200,000 a year with a house and 0.5 kids, Clayton obviously chooses the exciting world of espionage. It would be a short movie if he chose the later, although maybe there is a screenplay idea in there somewhere.

Of course nothing is what it seems and Clayton begins to wonder what is real or imagined. Everything is a test and once you are training people to lie, cheat and steal you can hardly blame them for wanting to try out their newly acquired skills.

There are a couple of scenes where an element of flag waving appears, the belief that the CIA are just and right is espoused. When one reads about where some of the CIA tax dollars have been spent, stabilizing corrupt governments and promoting assassination attempts etc, clearly any moral high ground was strolled past some time ago.

No matter, suffice to say that in the modern world all countries need to employ “security” staff, to monitor, investigate and involve themselves in work/scenarios that most of us, fortunately do not even know exist.

This is a glimpse into how recruits are prepared for this work. They learn how to speak foreign, languages, meet people and exploit them and of course learn how to fight and blow stuff up, all with government approval. The favourite part of the course I would guess.

Clayton’s fellow trainee Layla (Bridget Moynahan) may or may not be a mole and Clayton may or may not be attempting to track her down. There are neat twists and it is all done with a sense of believability with a few extra movie flourishes. The captivity/torture scene is effective but one would hope not a standard training exercise.

The chemistry between Clayton & Layla works well and Burke’s role as a substitute father figure also lends credibility. The obvious CIA assistance shows through in small details and provides the whole affair a more workmanlike slant, which prevents this film becoming another Bond look-alike. Whether Farrell would ever look good enough to wear that famous tuxedo is another much debated issue. Certainly there is much on display here to suggest he could.

This is maybe the first real movie where Farrell truly gets to be the star and if this is anything to judge by, he will be worth watching in the future.


Taut and effective spy thriller with well played leads. More reality based than any Bond film and a better movie for that reason. Farrell is at last moving into real star territory and who better to show the way than Al Pacino?