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Reviews & Ratings for
Breach More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Slow paced and engaging spy drama based on character

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
1 June 2008

Eric O'Neill is an ambitious young intel officer within the FBI, with hopes for more that he is currently being assigned. His hopes are both raised and dashed when he is assigned to work with veteran agent Robert Hanssen, who is a known sexual defiant. The FBI want to know who else has been involved with his internet postings and require O'Neill to log every action, every comment and find out as much as possible while essentially also working as a clerk. A job is a job but O'Neill finds himself quite liking the grouchy but amiable senior agent and wondering what the point of this assignment is, as he appears to be wasting his time.

Based on a true story, so I'm not sure how much of the detail (or even sweep) is true or artistic license, this is a quite satisfying drama that surprised me by how much I liked it. I hadn't heard anything really about it before watching it and I assumed it would be the usual spy thriller a la The Recruit, with twisty plots, running with guns and shouting. Instead what I got was a much slower and quieter drama that takes as much from the characters as it does from the story itself. It is not an easy sell but it works because the delivery "gets" what is required. The sweep of the narrative is engaging but what makes it succeed is the way it builds the two central characters so they are both of value to the viewer. I didn't think that O'Neill was the main character so much as a required device to get the audience involved with Hanssen. This allows the complex character to be built up and, while never totally understood, I was left with conflicting emotions about him and his motivations for what he did.

I have not put that very well but with this in mind the performances are key. I'm not a big fan of Phillippe to say the least but here he does good restrained work. He is not brilliant but he does just what the film needs. What he seems to benefit from is a great turn from Cooper. Cooper plays all the conflicting parts of his character really well so that, while not making total sense, they convince as reality. It is a great performance and he does make the film. In smaller roles Linney, Cole Quinlan and Haysbert are nice finds that add a sense of quality to the film. Dhavernas didn't work that well for me and it was just as well that her character's involvement was minimal.

Breach is a grown-up spy film, not one for those looking for twisty narrative with a running and shouting conclusion. It delivers a satisfying story where we already know the ending and it does it by building the characters and relationships around the lead two to draw the viewer in. The performances from Cooper and Phillippe are worthy of the material as well, doing it justice and making it work.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

"Breach" – A Crack In and Of Itself

6/10
Author: frankwhat from Lakewood, NJ
10 March 2007

Another one of a bunch movies in the past couple weeks to be released where the viewer already knows how it'll end. While most of the other ones were at least moderately successful in still being able to add an element of surprise, "Breach" wasn't. It was a supposed to be thriller that turned into a drama with only the slightest hint of suspense. Not only was it a slow-moving movie, which can sometimes be a good thing…but it was at times flat-out boring. This was hard for me to find because I'm always already a little bit intrigued when the words, "based on a true story," flash across the screen at the beginning of a film. However while that piques my initial interest, there has to be some substantiation for my fascination to remain…which this severely lacked unfortunately, even though the potential was there.

It's a crazy concept how a double agent was able to dupe the FBI for so long in real life and had the opportunity to be refined but the characters weren't developed fully. Robert Hanssen was whom the story should've been built around as for lack of better term I found him to be cool. There were so many levels too him that it was very hard to figure him out. Instead it focused on Eric O'Neill who I honestly didn't care too much about. The way he was portrayed he would've never been able to outfox Mr. Hanssen in a million years. This lead to a lot of head scratching on my part and as for others, at least two groups of people left the theater at some point well before it was over. If only the complexities of a spy, sexual deviant, religious fanatic, and family man wrapped all into one person were delved into this flick would've been so much better. O'Neill told Hanssen that he didn't matter and apparently the writers didn't either. On the contrary, I thought he did matter just as Robert retorted.

Chris Cooper was the one saving grace of the film as he was an exceptional force to be reckoned with. However Ryan Phillippe was outmatched and put in a pretty bad performance. He's a very one-dimensional actor and was miscast here. The only other parts I liked were a few great quotes coming from Cooper's character and the actual message of the film, that being the why behind things doesn't matter. This is very true because no matter how good an individual's intentions are when they do something, no one will care and will just judge that person based on the action taken itself…which is a sad thought. My favorite speech was when Robert Hanssen goes on about how America is much like a retarded child. It does sound horrible but he did have a valid point.

I wouldn't say this is one to miss completely but should be saved for the rental shelf and for those that know that it doesn't play out as it was advertised. All in all there was more good than bad in it, but barely. As a spy movie it was too inept by not even telling us why Hanssen betrayed his country for so long. Granted it could've been to make you think but that's a question it would've been better to have given the viewer a definitive answer to, since that's probably the main reason why most people will go see it…in order to find that out. Also too much time was spent on unnecessary symbolism such as the pen he used, and on the DVD's of "Entrapment" and "The Mask of Zorro". These two movies he had in his trunk represented his character being cornered in and his hidden identity, respectively. But we didn't need those objects to tell us that as it was only stating the obvious. Overall "Breach" was better than average but only because of a few redeeming factors. Besides that, it was just another mediocre February film that only makes this cold month seem that much colder. While Hanssen was always looking for more ways into the system to steal, I was looking for a way out…out of the theater that is.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A thinking person's spy movie

8/10
Author: bobbobwhite from san ramon ca
21 February 2007

If you like violent video games or action thrillers starring Arnold and the like, this true story is not for you. This film is for people who like intelligent stories, and also for those who have been in the job place long enough to know how maddening it can be to see incompetent, political ass-kissers get promoted over hard working, more competent workers who deserved the promotion a hundred times more. All of us with some years on us have surely been in a similar position in our jobs, and Robert Hansson, the traitorous spy in Breach, felt like that too but decided to serve treachery as his revenge, the coldest way he could prove his discontent to those who promoted those window-office seekers above him in position and power over a 25 year career. He was much smarter than they, but he would not play their power game as a matter of honor and religious devotion. This was a strange and complex contradiction in this man, his faith and honor juxtaposed with such a high level of treachery, but that combination was what made this story so interesting as it unfolded.

Breach's intense and often scary story has been well told by others, so I'll comment on things like the great good sense of the movie industry to finally make intelligent films like this one for folks tired of testosterone-overload action thrillers, and for finally coming to realize that putting great actors with regular faces in top starring roles, such as the marvelous Chris Cooper, instead of putting Newmans and Redfords and the like in them primarily for their ticket-selling sex appeal, is a move toward greater realism that will only help the overall credibility of all future intelligent films.

Chris Cooper....what can I say about him that has not been praised by others?......this man is a gift to the movie industry and to us as he has a sincerity and gravitas nearly unmatched in the industry. What Cooper says in a role people entirely believe, so casting him in a role requiring the utmost of intrigue, nuance, guile, cunning and unseen treachery was real masterstroke. Also, his scary "look" with those piercing hound dog eyes could make Attila the Hun cry for mercy. Laura Linney was also terrific as a FBI boss and Ryan Phillipe was good as the dutiful clerk underling who finally brought the great Hansson down. However, the always-terrific Gary Cole, as one of the well promoted and political, window-office guys, was wasted here in a nothing role for an actor of his talent and ability.

See this movie mainly to appreciate Chris Cooper's great face and acting. The story was John LeCarre light, but was still a good tale well told about a true historical set of events that still could have serious world repercussions for years to come.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

The best thing about "Breach": It's not directed by Tony Scott

4/10
Author: Andres Zambrano from United States
14 March 2007

Billy Ray's dramatization of FBI upstart Eric O'Neill's (Phillippe) work to ingratiate himself with Robert Hanssen (Cooper) in order to suss out the man's history of espionage is told in an unpretentious manner of arrogance: despite it's ambition, the film is cocky, often pushy, and even quite boring. Eric's character is annoying; Phillipe himself, annoying as hell already, is quite possibly the most overly dramatic actor out there. He boggs the film down to a level of falling asleep.

The film relies on Chris Cooper's tour-de-force performance, which this time isn't annoying. It's his role and Cooper is aware of this, keenly acting with confidence. Ray's frame has been supremely edited, leaving out little riches in the actual mis-en-scene of Washington, (where I saw the film coincidentally). But despite Ray's shunning of action-movie clichés and dull pacing, in the end the film works with a symbiotic relationship: Ray's lazy storytelling and Phillipe's bad acting, and Cooper's great acting. It seems the latter takes over in the end.

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7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Mediocrity

2/10
Author: between_the_fps
13 August 2007

What is most striking about this wooden delivery of god awful writing horrible directing w/ laughable mise-en-scène is the high rating. (this movie has a similar rating as Syriana which is superior on every level.) this is TV movie caliber junk telegraphing obviousness on every level. i just don't get it. look at the Bourne series -- jerky garbage with a high rating too....no i get it mediocrity rates mediocrity high.......but superior movies are similarly rated? mediocrity pulls intelligent movies down....i can sit here for an hour bottleneck tail boss you boys are killing me you have to get back in the truck what a shock i lied to you sir there isn't any construction what would you do that for because i need your help catholic information center religious bs sells to dummies i guess yehaw the intelligent agent buys this inane dialogue? no way. a state of affairs yawn..................

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Well made, honest and gripping account of how a traitor was caught

7/10
Author: patrick powell from United Kingdom
15 December 2013

Whenever a film I am about to watch is prefaced by the legend 'based on a true story' or a variation of such, my heart sinks. And usually it sinks with good reason. The legend is almost always a studio device to acquire a little something extra for its film, usually duplicitously, which it doesn't deserve. Breach, thank goodness, is the exception which proves the rule.

Robert Hannsen, here admirably and interestingly played by Chris Cooper, was a real-life traitor who is now serving life without parole in jail for his treachery. We also know that he was or purported to be - given the unfathomable enigma he presents to this day, how can we know what is true? - a devout Roman Catholic, that he secretly taped videos of himself having sex with his wife and passed the tapes on to a friend, and that to date his only apparent motive for betraying his country and colleagues was money.

So far so enigmatic and the raw material of Hannsen's treachery could have made any number of different kinds of films. Director Billy Ray and his scriptwriters take that material and make a rather good film. (I was, by the way, encouraged to watch Breach when I saw that it also stars Laura Linney - I have, to date, not seen her in anything but good and interesting films.) Without grandstanding, fake excitement, car chases or gratuitous sex and violence Ray has made an engrossing film which doesn't strike a single wrong note and oozes suspense - even though we all know what's going to happen. And that in my book constitutes a class act. We are drawn into Ryan Phillippe's dilemma that he cannot tell his wife the truth about his work even though it is in danger of doing serious damage to his marriage. We are drawn into Cooper's weirdly paranoid world and even allowed a suggestion at what might have set him on the road to treachery. But these elements are admirably played - there is no fake drama at all.

So sorry all you guys and gals who like a bit of 'action' in your 'spy' films, you ain't going to get it with Breach. But you will get and intelligent, quite gripping drama of a kind not often made.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

'Breach' excels in every way

Author: elihuevalerio from United States
6 November 2011

'Breach' is one of those rare movies that just gets better and better the more you watch it. Based on the true story of the worst security breach in U.S. history, it is a captivating, enthralling tale that proves that truth truly is stranger than fiction.

First off, the movie succeeds at keeping us guessing and wondering, even though we already know how the story ends. Not an easy feat. Secondly, the film is a unique blend of a spy thriller and a character drama. While it is a movie about a spy, it's not a "spy movie" by standard stereotype. There are no car chases or shootout scenes. Instead, the film uses a more low-key type of suspense, which engrosses viewers through its realism--and possibly creates an even greater tension that way.

The third element of the film is the casting/acting. All the actors fit their roles perfectly. Chris Cooper embodies Robert Hanssen, portraying a very complex villain objectively and with sensitivity. His performance was seriously overlooked by the Academy. If he can win for "Adaptation" (which was a great performance but, in my opinion, inferior to this one), he should have at least received a nomination for this one. Ryan Phillippe does a fine job as the film's protagonist, portraying the rookie pulled in all directions, struggling with life, trust, marriage, and wondering what his next move should be. Laura Linney is superb, as always, giving a tough performance as the agent in charge. She does have a few lines with a sort of dry sense of humor, which adds a bit of a light touch to an otherwise deep and serious film. The rest of the supporting cast is excellent as well and fit their roles perfectly.

The fourth (and possibly strongest) aspect that makes 'Breach' succeed so highly is its portrayal of Robert Hanssen. A great deal of that is owed to Cooper, but the filmmakers also had a hand in it. Hanssen is not demonized. Although his actions are grave and at times repulsive, we are shown a tender, family-oriented side of him. He is also seen as a faithful church-goer who probably does believe his religion, but his actions and choices make him very complicated to understand. In the end, we feel everything from disappointment to repulsiveness to confusion to fascination and, yes, even pity toward his character. Maybe not pity for him, per se, but pity for the fact that his actions had such dire consequences on so many people.

All-in-all, a well-rounded film that is sure to stick with you long after the end credits roll. To those who feel that this film was slow or boring, you obviously were expecting something else or either can't handle a more realistic spy movie. Sure, high-octane spy films are great, but it's the mesmerizing true stories that truly shine.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Finally a decent film worth watching

8/10
Author: sweetdreamer512 from United Kingdom
7 January 2010

Well executed and involving throughout.

Based on a true story, and it does seem whilst I can not verify, that the film sticks faithfully to its roots. You will find no unrealistic plots and excess script here.

The film keeps grounded and seems very low key but realistic in nature whilst never giving too much away throughout keeping you guessing on how it'll all end.

Some may find this tedious, depending if you are an action junkie. If you are, perhaps this isn't the film for you. That said, it isn't a film which needs your 100% devotion and attentiveness. I.e. you could easily watch this late at night before you go to sleep as I did.

The choice of actors is excellent and the acting can't be knocked. Cast is unusually very good (given what films I have seen of late). You will find no supermodel agents here but realistic looking actors and actresses who fit the role for the character they play.

Very well executed and the director didn't bother trying anything fancy or new to the camera work, which worked superbly. Not too long or short a film either - its balanced just right in length.

The ending is just as good as the start and finish. Lastly the few notes on the real life character is equally as interesting as the film itself. Expect to be talking about this one on the way home or with your friends and partners the next day.

Definitely worth a watch. It's been a while since I have said that I can assure you!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Breach

9/10
Author: kai ringler from United States
17 September 2009

this is the kinda movie that really makes you think,, for the most part i really enjoyed this movie, it tells the story of the most dangerous spy ever, one so smart that they picked him years before to head up a team ot figure out who the mole was, and it was him all along,, played by Chris Cooper who i really never heard of he plays Robert Hansen a career FBI man 25 years, so how along the way he turned bad, maybe nobody thought he was important enough, or wasn't like the rest of the guys, who knows what turned him,, Ryan Phillipe had a great role as Bob Hansen's understudy, he also did a fine job acting,, Laura Linney was also very good in her role as an FBI agent in this one,, and Dennis Haysbert, best known to me for his work in 24, also has a small part in the movie that he plays very well,, the only knock, if you can call it that is that i wish that the movie would have went back in time to when he first turned spy in the mid 80's, but then i guess it would have had to been a 6 hour movie instead.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Very compelling

8/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
16 September 2009

"Breach" is based on a true story of bringing a spy to justice, the man responsible for untold operative deaths and leaking of information to Russia. Chris Cooper is the man, Robert Hanssen, a veteran FBI agent actually preparing for retirement. However, for years, he's been selling information to the Russians. It's taken a long time to find out who the mole is, and now the bureau needs solid evidence. For that, the head of the investigation (Laura Linney) sets up a special security project, of which Hanssen is the head, and sends in a rookie, Eric O'Neill (Ryan Philippe) to work with him. He is instructed to hand in pages nightly detailing every single thing that has gone on, and also get info from Hanssen's PDA. When asked, O'Neill also needs to keep Hanssen occupied so the Bureau can detail Hanssen's car.

Eric has been told all sorts of things about Hanssen, including the fact that he's a pornographer, but what he finds instead is a prickly individual who goes to Mass every day, prays the rosary, has grandchildren who adore him and a loving wife. He warms up to Eric, and Eric begins to admire him. Can he really be the monster that his boss claims that he is? "Breach" is a completely absorbing film, due to Billy Ray's fine direction, a good script by Ray, Adam Mazer, and William Rotko, and very good acting. But it's the brilliant performance by Chris Cooper that puts the film over. He keeps the viewer guessing about his true personality throughout the movie, and his transition from hard-nosed, unapproachable boss to a more likable, warmer guy is amazing. Ray keeps an underlying tension going constantly, so that even a family dinner has something uncomfortable about it.

Having been raised Catholic, it was interesting to hear the Latin mass again and see someone praying the rosary.

Really excellent movie.

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