What a brilliant film, saw this just a few days ago and to be honest I wasn't really expecting a whole lot from it. After only seeing the first 20 mins I had completely changed my mind and knew that this was going to be engaging, entertaining and intelligent.
Chris Cooper is superb as a rogue FBI agent Robert Hanssen while Ryan Phillipe is captivating as the new kid on the block brought in to keep an eye on him.
If you like thrillers and intelligent films then this is certainly for you and is certainly made more interesting knowing that the events in the film are based on reality. This isn't a glitzy hollywood bombs and car chase film this is the tension building thriller that has a good story to tell with characters that you care about. I recommend this film very highly.
on 1 May 2008
Chris Cooper stars as an ageing FBI officer with a dark secret, and Ryan Phillipe as the young agent aiming to uncover it. It is based on the true story of the treacherous agent Robert Hanssen, the most dangerous mole ever to be employed by the US government.
Unusually for a modern thriller, the director employs lingering shots and builds up the tension without using fast edit techniques so that we focus on the characters and not just the action.
The spare, uncluttered interiors are reminiscent of Hitchcock's film "Vertigo" or of scenes from the work of artist Edward Hopper, where lonely figures inhabit barely furnished rooms. Whether this was the director's intention or not, the sparsely-populated sets serve to keep the viewer focused, even transfixed, upon the characters, rather than their surroundings. Thus our absorption with them means that we are drawn into the story, so that we ourselves move from being spectators and are drawn into the hushed and secretive world of cold war espionage.
The title Breach signposts the major theme of trust within personal and corporate relationsips. This is not only seen in Chris Cooper's character and the betrayal of his country but also in Ryan Philippe as he, under orders, builds a close (almost father-son) relationship with his superior as a means of gathering information on his activities. Philippe's character, taken under the wing of his colleague and even welcomed into his home, then struggles with his own betrayal of their friendship. Meanwhile, sworn to secrecy and unable to tell his wife of what is happening, he finds his own marriage under stress as her trust of him starts to crumble.
Another strong theme in this film is religion, for the spy Robert Hanssen is portrayed as a devout Roman Catholic, although other activities in which he is involved belie the integrity of his statement "God expects you to live your faith". His young colleague is a lapsed Catholic and this serves to personalize their relationship as the younger couple is invited to join him and his wife at mass and later at their home. In this area, however, the viewer is left to draw his own conclusions as to the relevance or otherwise of the main character's religiosity.
A fascinating tale, aided by Chris Cooper's magnetic central performance.
on 23 February 2008
For me Chris Cooper is one of America's greatest actors. Often playing second billing to other stars, this film provides him the ideal opportunity to show his acting skills.
Robert Hanssen is an FBI agent who spied for the Russians in the 1980's and again later in the late 1990s. A peculiar character, with apparently strict Jesuit beliefs, he betrayed more than 50 US agents, leading to at least two being assassinated by the Russians.
A junior FBI trainee (Ryan Phillippe) is assigned to spy on him. The film focuses on the relationship between the two men, with the younger agent in awe of the man he is supposed to expose.
An intelligent story based on true events, this is cinema at its very best. Cooper sparkles as the canny Hanssen and Phillippe provides a credible performance as the rookie. The pining wife seemed a tad overplayed (clearly for dramatic effect), but this doesn't distract from a riveting story.
on 7 August 2014
Heard about this DVD after reading the Robert Hanssen spying case elsewhere and watching the Youtube Hanssen content - which is quite extensive. The DVD was compelling enough to watch in one sitting and there is good build up of tension. Where there is existing historical FBI or CCTV video, the film has gone to some lengths to recreate the scenes as closely as possible.
The suspicious FBI get Eric O'Neill to work under Hanssen as his assistant in an attempt to create a personal relationship and break into his secretive lifestyle. Hanssen turns out to be something of an early tablet geek and kept document drop dates and incriminating information on his Palm III PDA, which never left his side. Until the day came that they manufactured a situation which separated him from it for brief time so they could read its content.
The film's storyline is actually mostly created around the difficult experiences of Eric O'Neill and his family which arose as he worked with Hanssen and we get little about Hanssen himself apart from his weird autocratic management style (think Dr. Strangelove). So the film is mostly silent about his personal life and cranky ideology that can be found elsewhere. I assume much is still classified.
Based on the true story of the FBI's most damaging double agent during the Cold War, Breach is a deceptively simple thriller. A detailed guide to the film's plot would make it sound like not very much happens during the film, and indeed you know who the double agent is from pretty early on - along with knowing that the FBI know. The story does not have the sort of twists an piece of fiction would require.
Yet for all that simplicity, and the absence of high-speed thrills, it is a tense film which keeps you watching thanks to the brilliance of the acting - especially Chris Cooper, the interplay of the characters and the use of sparse sets which get a twist of extra tension by the camera lingering over them. Even if the overall plot is straightforward, almost every scene has a form of tension that makes it a cut about the usual American espionage fare.
The DVD comes with some extras that are actually worth watching, including a news documentary on the real life case which the movie is based on, and a set of deleted scenes - a couple of which are quite brilliant - which come with a commentary that does a good job of explaining to the uninitiated why even brilliant scenes end up being axed in order to make the overall film work better.
OK - so let's look at why this film shouldn't be as superb as it is ...
(1) The first few minutes tell you how it's all going to end, so you know what's going to happen even before the main film starts.
(2) There is virtually no action whatsoever in the sense of chases, fights etc. There's a mildly tense scene near the end in a wood at night when a gun is fired, but apart from that - nothing.
(3) The film is mostly dialogue between the two main characters played by Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe, with some other important dialogue such as that between Ryan Phillippe and Laura Linney or Ryan Phillipe and Caroline Dhavernas.
So the film should be dull or even boring - but it isn't. Absolutely not. It grabs you from the start and draws you in deeper and deeper as tension builds and you come to care about every single character - even the villain of the piece who is played with intensity and depth by Chris Cooper. The final visual of the film, as lift doors close, is one that you won't forget in a hurry.
I also recommend watching two particular special features on the DVD which explore both the film-making process and the anatomy of a character. They really do show you how exact the film-makers were when it came to getting everything just right: All the people who, in real life, were involved in tracking down the traitor, were not only interviewed but also shown taking part behind the cameras during the filming. Things were done so carefully that the actress playing one character actually wore a copy of the wedding ring worn by the person who had been involved for real in the events being portrayed.
And yet this is not a mere 'True Crime' retelling of events - it is a dramatic film based on a wonderful script with an ensemble of superb actors and actresses. I'd class it as being genuinely 'unmissable'.
I streamed this as it sounded interesting and also had Ryan Philippe in it whom I quite like. It is based on the true story of Robert Hanssen who was caught after spying for 25 years and was at the very heart of the FBI - he was though extremely clever.
The story then jumps back two months and we see how rookie Eric O'Neil is assigned to work with him and told to look for the most unusual aspects of everything that his new boss says and does. What pans out is a really taught and well acted piece of film making. Chris Cooper (`August - Osage County') as Hanssen plays it both as `Mr Nasty' and the church loving `born again' Catholic.
Made in 2007 this is a film that has not lost any of its punch but seems to have been mostly ignored - which is a pity as I really enjoyed it and feels it deserves a much wider audience; great acting, great story and great production values - recommended.
What do you do with an FBI traitor who for 20 years was feeding serious secrets to the Soviets and then to Russia? If you're the FBI, you don't follow up on tips about the guy, you don't get curious that his expensive life style doesn't match his FBI salary, you ignore his extensive, private hetero kinkiness even though a murmur about homosexuality would get another person booted out the door, and you sure don't want to look too hard and then find a scandal on your hands like the CIA's Aldrich Ames.
It was in 1979, three years after he joined the FBI, that Robert Hanssen started his career as a spy. It wasn't until 1999 that it occurred to the FBI to look closely at Hanssen. At one point, concerned about the possibility of a mole in their midst, the FBI actually had Hanssen investigating any possible moles within the FBI.
Don't look for FBI culpability in Breach. The movie barely alludes to all this, yet this is the real story of Robert Hanssen. What we have, instead, is a genuinely fascinating story of the final hunt to nail Hanssen, the hunt for evidence that would stand up in court. To get that evidence the FBI, finally on the job, sends in Eric O'Neill, a young man without much experience to be Hanssen's gofer. The hope is that Hanssen will not see this fellow as a threat and may let down his guard. If the FBI is going to nail Hanssen, they need to catch him in the act of sending classified information to the Russians. Without this, the best they can do is fire him. It's no spoiler to say that Robert Hanssen was arrested in 2001 and is now serving a life sentence in a high security prison, restricted to solitary confinement 23 hours a day. Eric O'Neill did his job.
That outstanding actor, Chris Cooper, plays Hanssen. It's a magnificent performance, stuffed full with intelligence, arrogance, suspicion, threat and conflict. Hanssen is not a likeable guy, but he's shrewd and smart. The contest between Hanssen's deep suspicions toward anyone and Eric O'Neill's odd combination of apparent naivety and resourceful quick thinking keeps the movie, for the most part, speeding right along. The one real weakness is Laura Linney as O'Neill's boss. It's an unnecessary part and just seems to sit there as a way to feature a star name who can be used now and then for some plot exposition. As much as I like Linney, every time she's on screen I'm reminded that I'm watching a Hollywood movie. That goes for some of the secondary parts, too. The movie needed faces we'd never seen before, except for Cooper. Instead there are too many vaguely familiar Hollywood faces, such as Gary Cole, Dennis Haysbert, and Kathleen Quinlan. They all do good jobs, but their familiarity is distracting.
Ryan Phillippe as Eric O'Neill gives a first-class, nuanced performance. O'Neill is not thrilled with what he's called upon to do. He can't tell anyone, including his wife, and she's not happy with his long and erratic hours. It's a dangerous, high stress job and the man he's trying to catch is no dummy. Phillippe holds his own with Cooper. It's unfortunate that he has one of those youngish, generically handsome faces. He's a good actor, and I think his looks get in the way of critical appreciation of his skills. The movie stands or falls on the actor who plays Hanssen. Chris Cooper is so good and so believable it's a pleasure to sit back and lose yourself in his performance. He's been memorable is so many movies, but one of his best performances (and a favorite of mine) is in Lone Star.
on 9 December 2008
A spy thriller without any action yet an interesting tale of 2 men in the midst of america's greatest traitor case in recent times. Im not going to describe the story in detail but I just wanna point out the outstanding performance from Cooper. An actor usually associated with similar roles to this but never given a lead role to show the depth he can bring to roles and characters like 'amoral agent' types like Rob Hanssen. The final scene in the elevator where O Neil sheepishly stares at the man he betrayed is truly memorable and i give this 9/10.
The single blemish is Phillipe's acting at times which can be hammy. It looks sometimes like hes told to act a certain way sometimes rather than getting into character and portraying, as opposed to acting a role...I guess thats what a director is there for but it adds to a movie if the characters empathise with their roles in my opinion. Classic case of the ol generic good looking guy/girl 'we'll make him a star' casting.
Great story carries everyone through. I wasnt really excited by the plot outline before watching because i thought it would be a stereotypical political thriller but its a movie more about characters and their complexities and role conflicts than an indictment of spying or anything. GIVE IT A CHANCE and watch it. 9/10