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
In 2001, Eric M. O'Neill's new marriage to Juliana O'Neill was quite complicated by this FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) intelligence assignment. He said: "I would work all day on the case, then go to law school at night, and very often go back to the office. I was torn between needing to be with Juliana and balancing this major national security investigation. So, suddenly I was just this jerk who was working all the time and didn't even seem to have a good explanation for it. It was very difficult to lie to her, but I was required to. That just goes with the job." See more »
Eric and Robert enter a church and Eric makes the sign of the cross incorrectly. Since much of the plot involves Eric's and Robert's Catholicism, it would have been an error that would have made Robert suspicious. 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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Greetings again from the darkness. Writer/Director Billy Ray was the creative force behind "Shattered Glass" a few years ago and obviously is drawn to true stories of human deception. Here he takes on one of our biggest fears ... a federal agent who sells out his own country. Normally we only get these type of scenarios in LeCarre novels, but the story of FBI agent Robert Hanssen is a real life nightmare.
Perfect casting has Chris Cooper as the very odd Hanssen who has nearly 25 years with the bureau, many of which have been spent selling off national secrets to the Soviet Union. In an almost unbelievable stroke of luck, Hanssen was put in charge of finding the mole ... yes, his job was to find himself!! Cooper is very strong here as the ego-maniacal tortured soul who pulls off his deceit with a disarming devotion to religion, the bureau and blending. He appears to be just another working stiff pulling in a paycheck.
Most of the supporting staff is solid. Laura Linney is slightly miscast as the agent in charge of bringing Hanssen down. Dennis Haysbert is her boss. Gary Cole plays it straight here, and Kathleen Quinlan (as Hanssen's wife) and Bruce Davison (as Eric O'Neill's dad) have brief but effective turns. Caroline Dhavernas is an actress I am not familiar with, but her performance here has me intrigued.
The weak link in the film is Ryan Phillipe, who just doesn't possess the acting chops to pull off the pivotal role of Eric O'Neill - the agent wannabe who gets thrust into the crucial position of bringing Hanssen down. It is just implausible to believe Phillipe could ever pass the FBI entrance exam, much less outsmart the guy who outsmarted the entire bureau for two decades. Despite the weakness, the story is strong enough to overcome this and maintain the quasi-thriller feel. This is quite an accomplishment for a film when all the viewers know how it will end!! The real life Hanssen is spending life in prison and O'Neill immediately resigned from the bureau for the "normal" life of a Washington attorney. Part spy thriller, part history lesson, part psychoanalysis, "Breach" is very enjoyable despite the fact that we are provided no real answers as to WHY this man acted as he did. We are only led to believe that it wasn't the money, but instead the ego that drove his madness.
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