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The true story of the biggest security breach in US history. Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper) is a veteran intelligence agent who has been reassigned to the FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. to head up a new division to protect all the FBI's classified information. Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe) is a young employee of the Bureau, a surveillance and computer specialist who hopes to become an FBI field agent one day. He is recruited to his dream job in Intelligence by his boss Kate Burroughs (Laura Linney) to clerk for Hanssen. But O'Neill soon finds out why he was really assigned to his new post; Hanssen has been selling secrets to the Soviets for years and his employers know it. They just need more information on him before they can make an arrest and a tricky game of cat and mouse ensues...
Is a mystery really mysterious when the end isn't a secret? Is espionage still thrilling when you know beforehand that the cloak has been pulled back and the dagger revealed? If it's a film as good as Breach, the answer is a resounding yes. Here is a true story that's genuinely stranger than fiction: FBI agent Robert Hanssen spent over 20 years selling government secrets to the Russians, making him the most egregious traitor in U.S. history. He was an Opus Dei Catholic and a devout churchgoer who was also a sexual deviant, a straitlaced company man so trusted by his employers that they once appointed him to lead an investigation designed to reveal who the spy was--when in fact it was Hanssen himself. And in the end, he was brought down in part by 26-year-old Eric O'Neill, an agent-in-training who worked with him for just two months. Chris Cooper, a 2003 supporting actor Oscar winner for Adaptation, is brilliant in the lead role, playing Hanssen as a dour, cold, ultra-conservative cypher (women in suits are just one of his peeves) whose conversations more closely resemble interrogations. Ryan Phillippe is also excellent as O'Neill, who's initially kept in the dark by the superior (Laura Linney) who assigned him to help expose Hanssen's treachery; thinking he's been brought in only to gather evidence about his boss's sexual transgressions, O'Neill finds himself caught in a profound moral conundrum, grudgingly admiring Hanssen even as his own marriage is severely tested by the older man's creepy and hypocritical intrusion into their lives, not to mention the FBI's strict rules against discussing the case.Director Billy Ray (whose previous feature was also a true story: Shattered Glass, about the young writer who fabricated stories for The New Republic) and co-screenwriters Adam Mazer and William Rotko do an extraordinary job of maintaining the tension as the story leads to the conclusion that's been revealed in the first few frames (i.e., Hanssen's arrest in February 2001); the exquisite torture of O'Neill's having to keep Hanssen distracted while Bureau technicians search the latter's car is but one example. Moreover, notwithstanding the plot developments, the filmmakers manage to keep their focus on the personal interactions that are the film's key element: the relationships that O'Neill maintains with Hanssen, his father (a cameo by Bruce Davison), his wife (Caroline Dhavernas), and others are entirely credible. At once fascinating and horrifying, Breach is inarguably one of the best films of 2007. --Sam Graham
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a slow burner made all the better because its a true incredible tale definitely worth sticking with itPublished 11 days ago by Bugs
I remember when this guy got arrested and watched a show on American TV about it. The movie is okay, the acting was good but I felt like something was missing and in places boring. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Carol
Apart from one "f" word which could have been omitted, this is a great story told of true events that happened. I was pleasantly surprised and the film was quite watchable.Published 5 months ago by Tim
Tense and exciting, but as a big Chris cooper fan I was a little dissapointed. Worth watching bot a bit conventional in that spy = bad and America =good.Published 6 months ago by ben pickford