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James Clayton: Everything is a test! The Recruit

Walter Burke: Nothing… is… what it seems.

Ever have those times in life when you feel like you can’t trust anybody?  That everyone is out to get you?  Try to imagine being a spy.  Imagine watching your back at every turn, having to guard any information about yourself and having to be skeptical of anything you’re told.  For most of us, those times of distrust are usually periodic, but for spies, that sort of thinking has to be constant or they make deadly mistakes.

The Recruit is one of those films that will make you distrust just about everything.  James Clayton (Colin Farrell) is recruited for the CIA by Walter Burke (Al Pacino).  He tells James that James’ deceased father was a CIA agent and that James was made for work at the CIA. So James jumps in and training begins.  But, after a grueling series of tests it appears that James “washes out,” until Burke tells him, that in reality he passed and he is the CIA’s newest NOC agent.  But the series of events that follow make him question everything he’s been told and those he cares about.

Be careful who you trust:  One thing this movie portrays is trust no one.  But, in that you can’t trust any body, we can use it to reinforce the one we should all trust…God.  Since He’s about the only one that won’t let you down, even though he’s never mentioned in the movie.  But when you can’t trust the girl you’ve got feelings for, your instructors, your co-workers, or even your own instincts, who’s left??  What is frustrating is the lack of respect for life and especially the focus on “get them before they get you” mentality.  It also completely denies the “see Christ in everyone” ideal.  But, I would say that seeing what all that distrust, fear and constant doubt shows in such an extreme way what life is like when you don’t look for the good in everyone and don’t trust in God.  So how can we change our attitudes to see God in everyone?  How can we help others try to live more positively?  How can we encourage We’ve all seen it; a negative environment breeds distrust and more negativity.  But positive environments encourage, support and are just plain happier places to be.

Everything is a test, nothing is real:  Wow, how often do you feel like everything in your life is a test?  Think about the wager in the book of Job… it was a test.  And, Job passed.  In James’s case, his tests are more concrete, but somehow the test truly infiltrates every part of his life.  Our lives are a test.  Do we jump in to bash someone we don’t like when an opportunity presents itself, or do we try to find the positive?  Do we take the time to help those in need?  Do we listen when we should and only dispense advice that is moral an ethical?  We are always being tested.  We have to work on making ourselves the best we can be to pass the ultimate test.  Can you identify some ways to do that? I suggest prayer, reading scripture and spending some time with Church teachings.  Remember that Job continually praised God, despite everything.

Love is used against you:  Whether or not you agree that James & Layla were in love, the feelings they display for one another are used to exploit each other, and used against them.  Also, Burke uses James’s love for his deceased father is used to manipulate him into CIA training. Abusing the gift of love is one of the most hurtful things we can do, and sadly, we see it every day. That guy who says “I love you” to get the girl to have sex with him, or that woman who says “if you love me you’ll take me out” or …”buy me that piece o jewelry.”  We can’t use love against those we love and expect to get what we want.  Not only does it hurt them, but drives a wedge between that leads to fear and distrust for that relationship and all future relationships.  Real love does those things without the guilt trip, without expectation.  Love is patient, love is kind…  1 Colossians 13:4-8.  We know it because it’s read at just about every Christian wedding but do we really think about what it means.  So, how can we stop using love to manipulate?  How can we encourage love and encourage those we love without manipulating them?

You were born to do this:  We all have gifts we are born with…  It’s our responsibility to discover them and hone them as we make our way through life.  James is told more than once that he was born to be a spy.  So, what gifts do you think you were born with?  Have you been working on them?  Did others have to tell you they saw the gift in you for you to start considering it or did you discover it on your own?  If you discovered it on your own, how?  What have you done to try to work on it?  How are you using it to help your fellow man?  How are you at recruiting others?  Many times we have to be able to spot talent in others for teamwork both in work and play, how do we recognize it?  How do we draw it out?  How can we help others realize their talents?

You can’t live in the past:  James is living with uncertainty about his father’s death, and the possibility that he isn’t dead.  Burke continuously uses this against him.  Unsuccessful people blame their parents or lack thereof, society, bosses, anybody and everybody but themselves for their issues.  Successful people, however do just the opposite.  You can’t live in the past.  We do have to keep looking forward, looking for that day when we meet God, and working toward that goal.  That doesn’t mean we can’t still be connected to the past or that we have to abandon those from our past, we just can’t let it dictate the present!  What are some things you may need to let go of?  Is there someone around you that needs help breaking free of something from their past?  How can we help them?

It’s a wrap!  The Recruit is rated PG-13.  There’s definitely language issues and sex scenes, in addition to the portrayal of using sex to exploit a potential mark.  So this is definitely one I would reserve for a more adult crowd…  however, since use and abuse of love is so prevalent amongst those in high school, it could be used with them, too, but as a group unto themselves.  It may seem extreme, but it does show, very well, the effects of exploitation of our talents and love for one another.