In February, 2001, Robert Hanssen, a senior agent with 25 years in the FBI, is arrested for spying. Jump back two months: Eric O'Neill, a computer specialist who wants to be made an agent is assigned to clerk for Hanssen and to write down everything Hanssen does. O'Neill's told it's an investigation of Hanssen's sexual habits. Within weeks, the crusty Hanssen, a devout Catholic, has warmed to O'Neill, who grows to respect Hanssen. O'Neill's wife resents Hanssen's intrusiveness; the personal and professional stakes get higher. How they catch Hanssen and why he spies become the film's story. Can O'Neill help catch red-handed "the worst spy in history" and hold onto his personal life? Written by
The movie fictionalized much of Eric M. O'Neill's story. Among the changes made for the film: The real O'Neill knew going in that Robert Hanssen was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. There was no cover story about sexual perversions, and no dramatic meeting where O'Neill learned the truth. There was no extensive contact outside the office between O'Neill and Hanssen as shown in the film (e.g. O'Neills visiting the Hanssens, Hanssens dropping by O'Neill's apartment); however, Hanssen did take O'Neill to church. The scene where Hanssen takes O'Neill out into the woods and drunkenly fires his pistol is fictional. Unlike in the movie, O'Neill never saw Hanssen after the arrest. While O'Neill did obtain Hanssen's PDA, he took it to FBI techs to download rather than downloading it himself. See more »
When Robert Hanssen is making his final "dead drop" of government secrets in a metro DC park in February, the sound track includes the distinct sound of robins singing. Robins do not migrate into the DC area until many weeks later. See more »
Sunday, the FBI successfully concluded an investigation to end a serious breach in the security of the United States. The arrest of Robert Hanssen, for espionage, should remind us all, every American should know, that our nation, our free society, is an international target, in a dangerous world.
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The performances were all just fine, the story had the potential to be intriguing, the characterizations ought to have been riveting.
Why then, was this movie so ho-hum? It felt like the director and writers didn't know what story they were trying to tell. Was it a character study of a traitor? No, we don't get much depth on Hanssen. Was it a taut thriller? No, there weren't thrills to speak of, and no real twists or turns. Was it an inside-the-FBI potboiler? No, we didn't learn much about the bureaucracy of intelligence.
At times, there were glimmers of each of these stories, but never any depth on any them. I felt like we skated along the surface of a story that would have been much more interesting viewed from underneath the ice.
I don't recommend spending the time on this, unless you really like looking at Ryan Phillipe. I do, and it still didn't elevate it.
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