There really is no point in arguing over what drove Hanssen(although it is interesting to note the strong, equivocal feelings he seems to arouse). Hanssen will always be a deeply controversial and contradictory character.
What should be celebrated about Masterspy is the fact that the filmmakers didn't take the easy option and try to simplify Hanssen in order to please nonplussed viewers. Indeed, in an interview Mailer, who wrote Masterspy, said he found Hanssen the most fascinating living subject he has ever studied, and this shows in his careful, even a little obsessive screenplay. And Schiller's subdued, unfussy direction only highlights his own fascination with Hanssen in the form of his leading man, William Hurt. And Hurt really delivers as his performance drives the film- I can't think of another actor, let alone an American, who would dare portray Mailer's strange Hannsen and grasp his confused, contradictory but insatiable needs. In his endeavour, Hurt is strongly supported by inspired company who maximise their own well-written roles, Boyle's seedy, sadistic father Howard, Mary-Louise Parker's loving wife Bonnie, Ron Silver's sympathetic boss Mike, and Sthraitern's strange best friend Jack (though even he comes across as pretty normal alongside Hanssen!).
Television is increasingly becoming the only place for focused, thoughtful studies of complex characters in adult situations. And Masterspy is Television at its best. Still, it is not perfect. Mailer's old-fashioned view of women does affect the film slightly, especially in the case of a one-dimensional harridan female FBI intern, and Louise-Parker's Bonnie cries out for more screen time. Perhaps this is part of a more general fault, which is that the film needed to be longer (it seems too long for a TV Movie and too short for a Mini Series, and as far as I can understand has been billed as both). More detail on Hannsen's youth would have been desirable (perhaps a young actor to fill in for the Middle Aged Hurt?) and Hannsen's bizarre relationship with his best friend Jack needed more screen time.
3 of 5 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?