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Was looking forward to watching this film , and don't get me wrong it
delivers well with good acting in both main roles and has a very good
script. It casts some of my favourite stars from the Bourne movies.
But to be honest , I thought it lacked suspense and could have done with a more dramatic finish. As I said in my summary a good build up with some "your going to get caught - get the hell out of there scenes" but from the middle to end it drys up a bit.
My g/f fell asleep which isn't at all normal when watching this kinda movie! Worth a watch but certainly not the best American Government Thriller out there.
On the plus side, a magnificent central performance from the great
Chris Cooper, solid support from the likes of Laura Linney, Dennis
Haysbert, Caroline Dhavernas and Kathleen Quinlan. On the minus side, a
plodding, sometimes toe-curlingly clichéd, script that provides little
insight into the motivation of the USA's most destructive spy. Without
an actor of Cooper's calibre in this role the entire project would have
foundered. As it is, it is almost sunk by the casting of Ryan
Phillippe, whose role of Eric O'Neill provides the movie's primary
point of view.
It is probably true that most young actors would have their work cut out not to seem diminished in the shadow of Mr Cooper, but poor Ryan flounders even in his domestic scenes with Ms Dhavernas. Mr Phillippe is a type of actor - Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are two other notable examples - who seem incapable of moving beyond impassivity in front of the camera: no inner life reaches the audience. It's almost as if they're scared of over-emoting in case they look hammy.
In a lot of movies it's not a problem - Keanu Reeves has done very well with this technique, mainly choosing vehicles for himself that suit his limited expressivity. And Mr Phillippe himself has pulled through on other occasions: as part of the group of soldiers at the heart of Flags of Our Fathers, his persona was adeptly deployed by Clint Eastwood to embody the clean-cut decency for which he seems to have been cast in Breach. But in Breach a much wider range was called for: Eric O'Neill is a spycatcher, who has to tell lies convincingly to fool his quarry. Layers of complexity are called for. Mr Phillippe is not up to providing them, nor in filling the yawning gaps left by the script.
In short, a largely dull film rendered memorable by the remarkable Chris Cooper.
Disappointing. With the exception of Chris Cooper's stand-out central
performance this film struggles to define itself. Presumably, since we
know the outcome of this 'thriller' at the outset it's less of a twisty
whodunnit than a moral study. Two men work together in a relationship
defined by deception, paranoia and hanging onto crumbs of a priori
truths to get them through...
Well, it could have been good but the script's limp so all else crumbles around it. I like the photography that stresses the asceticism of winter Washington and the anonymity of the buildings inside and out - but the drama linking this existential wasteland to the men is scuppered by the weak dialogue. I blame Billy Ray squarely since the direction of the film has the same issues. Take, for example, the business of a painting showing two men in a boat. It's a whacking great symbol for mutual survival (I recalled the slogan on President Josiah Bartlett's desk in the West Wing: "O God, thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small") but it has less importance to the director than so many other details dwelt on in the film that have no interest other than to embellish the narrative.
Cooper is marvellous. He succeeds in giving a highly sympathetic performance but leaving us in no doubt that we are witnessing the documenting of a creep. Ryan Phillippe lacks gravitas or stillness - Crash is still his best showing in a middleweight career. Laura Linney is hung out to dry and Dennis Haysbert is superfluous. 4/10
For years, I'd heard about various things that the Federal Bureau of
Investigation had done, whether going after John Dillinger, or spying
on political dissidents. But until reports about Robert Hanssen came
out in early 2001, I would have never guessed that an agent had gone
all the way to sell secrets to the Soviet Union.
So, the story gets brought to the screen in "Breach". We first get to see rookie agent Eric O'Neill (Ryan Philippe) learning about the FBI's inner workings. He then gets to meet his superior, Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper). Hanssen is an egomaniac who doesn't like women wearing pant suits ("We don't need any more Hillary Clintons!"). Despite Hanssen's nearly hostile attitude, O'Neill quickly grows to respect him as much as possible.
That's when the catch comes. Not only does another agent (Laura Linney) identify that Hanssen spent many years spilling secrets to the USSR, but Hanssen starts invading O'Neill's life, undermining his marriage. It becomes clear that this will probably lead up to something ugly.
I thought that this was a very well-done movie. Watching it, one gets a feeling of how unpleasant it must be to work in the FBI; in the movie, it always seems like everyone's ready to stab each other in the back. Cooper turns Hanssen into a chilling, amoral lunatic, the sort of man who could at any moment break you in half. Philippe turns O'Neill into a young man uncertain of how to make his way in the world of espionage, especially with the unctuous things going on. Also starring are Dennis Haysbert and Bruce Davison.
The one downside is that we never find out why exactly Hanssen betrayed his country.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Breach is a concise drama based on a junior FBI agent Eric O'Neill's
(Ryan Phillippe) rolethe movie spans only two monthsin catching
notorious FBI traitor Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper) in 2001. Hanssen
sold secrets to the Soviets for 22 of his 25 years while he worked in
intelligence within the FBI, but this version of his story (there are
at least two books and a decent made-for-TV movie as well) shortens
it,there was not much wrong with most of what I got; I just wanted m
and this is both this movie's strength and weakness.
The movies begins with O'Neill being chosen seemingly out of the blue to work undercover watching Hanssen while posing as Hanssen's clerk. Phillippe is convincing as O'Neill, who is bright, ambitious, and very conscientious. O'Neill is also Catholic like Hanssen, who quickly notices this, and it becomes obvious that O'Neill is the kind of all-American, idealistic young man whom Hanssen will not be threatened by, making him a perfect choice to spy on Hanssen. O'Neill is not initially told the real reason for spying on Hanssen, only that Hanssen is a sexual deviant and that he has harassed female underlings. O'Neill naturally feels frustrated at being taken off of a career track pursuing actual foreign terrorists to pursue a middle-aged, mid-level manager sexual deviant within the Bureau. He does get a clue that there may be more to his assignment than meets the eye, however, when he is given a special pager that only his real boss, played by Laura Linney, can page him on and is told to note everything he can about Hanssen every day and send the reports to his real superiors. Something more serious than sexual harassment is clearly going on.
Hanssen, as ably played by Cooper in yet another troubled man role, is a mass of contradictions: he preaches to his underling about prayer and saying his rosary daily while Hanssen has been taping himself and his wife having sex and mailing the tapes to a friend. Of course, Hanssen's biggest contradiction is his espionage, Hanssen having sold huge amounts of valuable information to the Soviet Union for some $1.4 million in cash and diamonds, much of which he gave to strippers he befriended, though this is not part of this movie.
I like this kind of movie: the expose of the inner workings of a secret and powerful organization, the intrigue that a story like this carries with it, and the feeling of being on the inside of something very very exclusive. It's fun, in a perverse sort of way, to watch bad things happen to the smug inner circle of the intelligence world and feel morally superior to the traitor who is betraying his country as well as to the devoted officers who are betrayed by the traitor and by their own overmuch devotion to their own careers, which are now called into question by all the damage done by 22 years of a mole in their midst.
The movie is paced well. While not exactly speedy, the movie does move us along with all due speed towards the inevitable end of Hanssen's career (and his life as he knew it), and the elements of the movie--the lighting, editing, and casting--all hit their marks. It is set during the winter in Washington, DC and Northern Virginia, and everything, including the drab office interiors, are cold and gray. Hanssen even wears all black during his capture and arrest. On one hand, I liked the focused approach to the story-telling, but on another I wanted more background about the main characters: I left the movie wishing I had seen more of the story unfold so I could feel more the gravity of Hanssen's betrayal and his contradictions. Instead, because of the brevity of the story and the point of view taken to tell it, I merely heard about all the things that Hanssen had done in an interview O'Neill has with his boss. I was told rather than shown. I wanted a movie but got mostly snapshots or, more accurately, descriptions of snapshots. This is a very good movie, but given the gravity of the events and the depth of the deception, I wanted more than just good snapshots.
Seven out of ten.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on the true story of the worst spy scandal in American history,
Breach expertly mixes compelling performances with a smart story that
eschews most spy movie clichés in favor of a look at how bureaucracy
and organization in the espionage game remains very much the same as
Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe) is a young man who works for the FBI and wants desperately to become an agent. Because of his skill with computers, Eric is picked by Special Agent Kate Burroughs (the lovely Laura Linney) to spy on Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), an FBI analyst Burroughs says is suspected of being a sexual deviant. Assigned to be Hanssen's assistant, O'Neill comes to know Hanssen as a brilliant, prickly, extremely conservative, deeply religious and deeply unsatisfied man. O'Neill grows disenchanted with his assignment, feeling it a waste of his time, until Burroughs tells him the real story. The FBI suspects Hanssen of selling secrets, first to the Soviet Union and then to Russia, since the mid 1980s. They need to find the proof before Hanssen retires in two months and they need Eric to help them do it.
The acting in Breach is all superb. Ryan Phillippe is great as a young man who's given the chance to get everything he's every wanted, but learns he's unwilling to pay the price for it. Chris Cooper is marvelous as he goes beyond stereotypes of treason or hypocrisy to show us a man whose contradictions flow out of his splintered soul. His Robert Hanssen is a man whose personality exists in distinct parts, unintegrated and separate, who is tortured by the way his individual selves scrape against each other. Laura Linney breathes life and warmth into a part that could have been very unlikable. Burroughs is focused totally on bringing Hanssen down and coldly uses O'Neill to make that happen, yet Linney keeps the character from becoming too cold by showing us how personally hurt Burroughs is by the betrayal of someone like Hanssen. Caroline Dhaveras as O'Neill's wife represents all the normal, good things in his life being threatened by the demands of being an FBI agent, but she makes Juliana O'Neill a genuine human being and not just a prop of the script.
The story of Breach is like a jigsaw puzzle. You start out knowing what it's supposed to be and the challenge is in figuring out how all the piece fit together. It never tries to explain Hanssen's treachery. As befits one of the greatest spies of all time, it allows Hanssen to remain a mystery. It's up to the viewer to try and fit all of his pieces together and understand him. The script also strips away all the melodrama of espionage. It's not about James Bond or Jack Ryan performing deeds of daring. It's about lonely men breaking every vow of loyalty in their lives and about teams of people slowly and methodically working to catch them. It's a world where the good guys and the bad buys lie and manipulate as a matter of course and the most important decision made isn't whether to be good or bad. It's whether you'll be a part of that world at all.
Breach is an outstanding film that's well worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film by Billy Ray (Shattered Glass) tells this remarkable story of
how Hanssen was eventually exposed and how the F.B.I. worked over the
final two months of his employment at the agency to try and infiltrate
his circle and make a case using all their available resources at the
highest level of the bureau.
On February 20, 2001, FBI agent Robert Hanssen was arrested by an agency task force and charged with selling the highest and most classified of the government's secrets to the Soviet Union. His case would later identify him as the biggest spy in American history who's sharing of sensitive documents and information lead to the death of at least three operatives while exposing some of the nation's highest confidential secrets and operations.
Chris Cooper (Adaptation) plays Hanssen. He is a church going family man that at first hardly mirrors the monster that the agency is determined to expose. Ryan Phillippe (Crash) plays Eric O'Neill, an agent wannabe that is assigned to work as Henssen's clerk in an attempt to follow, document & spy on his move in an attempt to help the F.B.I. build their case. Their relationship for two months will lead to the downfall of Hanssen's operations and would leave a black mark on the government agencies in a year that presented its own problems by 9/11.
The film is less concerned with big action scenes than with examining the relationship between these 2 very different men set in unwitting opposition to one another. Hanssen himself was a mass of immense hypocrisies & contradictions. As a devout Catholic, he attends Mass religiously, recites the rosary everyday, and looks with disdain upon homosexuals, women who wear pants & anybody seemingly to the left politically of extreme conservatism. Yet, despite his outward display of moral rectitude, Hanssen secretly distributes porn videos of his wife (she is unaware of their existence) and betrays his country by turning over classified information to the enemy. O'Neill finds himself simultaneously drawn to & repulsed by the man, who manages to be both prig and libertine at one and the same time. O'Neill knows that what Hanssen is doing is terribly wrong, yet he can't help falling under the spell of a man he knows that, under other circumstances, might well come to value as a friend & a mentor.
In July of the same year, Hanssen was tried and convicted for 15 counts of espionage. Followers of the Robert Hanssen case believe that Hanssen's primary motive was to show his own importance (as a information security planner) by revealing holes in the system that he would have plugged. I wish this film would have worked with that a bit, because this notion of helping the system by hurting is system is both what the story could have been about and the means used to tell the story.
A news documentary which ran on Dateline on 3/5/2001 outlined the way Robert Hanssen communicated his information to re-establish new protocol to pass information over 6000 pages of documents/data that was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Great roles were delivered as well by Laura Linney, Gary Cole, Dennis Haysbert, Kathleen Quinlan, & Tom Barnett to name a few.
Interesting trivia: In the opening, code quickly flashes & is reduced to the movie title. The scrolling code is a Linux procedure that mounts (connects to) networked data sources such as Unix, Windows and Novell file systems. The real Hanssen commonly used a quote about purple pissin' Japanese which led to his capture.
I remember a broad discussion of Robert Hanssen on 60 Minutes several years ago. I was intrigued at how a man could become so singularly significant in the world of espionage. Apparently, it has to do with presenting an image, false though it may be, that people are afraid to confront. In other words, a good offense is the best defense. I don't consider this the best movie ever, but Chris Cooper (whom I enjoy in just about everything) is the tightly wound Hanssen who intimidates, not with his power (though that's always there), but with his "Christianity" and his "Morality." It is a little fuzzy why he was what he was, but zealots often have their own reasons. I believe the movie had a strain of tension running through it that makes it work. There are scenes of great intensity. It rang a bit of "All the President's Men."
Its a true story about an FBI senior official Robert Hannsen whose
about to retire in a few months. He was a double crossing agent who
worked for KGB for about 25 years. To catch him red-handed they plant a
new person as his clerk. Without any training in FBI this new guy was
put in to collect information about him secretively. And what happens
in this process is the movie.
I liked the performances of both leading actors. They were perfect and keep you tensed every moment. Excellent photography. Dialogues were well placed and executed. Director Billy Murray did it well.
At the end credits they say the KGB executed as much as 50 'human sources'(Russians who acted as double crossing agents like Robert Hannsen in Russia). The lead character will say 'The 'why' doesn't matter. Isn't it. Or does it'.
Put off the patriotism stuff one would feel. What is it like being a spy ? Being a traitor ? May be the thrill of being it.
Youthful F.B.I. agent Ryan Phillippe (as Eric O'Neill) is assigned
undercover work as clerk to senior agent Chris Cooper (as Robert
Hanssen), who is approaching retirement age. Superior agent Laura
Linney (as Kate Burroughs) wants an in-house investigation of Mr.
Cooper, who is a suspected "sexual deviant." Soon, Mr. Phillippe is
checking Cooper's computer "history" for pornographic sites. He finally
does uncover Cooper's anti-climactic sex tape, but Phillippe discovers
his subject is involved in something much more sinister - the worst
security "Breach" in U.S. history.
"Based on a true story," proves again, truth is stranger than fiction. Herein, a veteran American spy circulates recognizable sex tapes of himself and his wife. Obviously, the man has problems - along with a remarkably trustworthy group of European spy friends, who enjoy watching older couples demonstrate the missionary position. Yet, director Billy Ray's "Breach" is engaging and believable. Try to ignore the opening video tape of "right-wing" Attorney General John Ashcroft, who shared Mr. Hanssen's Christian zeal, but wasn't involved in the same sort of criminal activity.
Most importantly, this well-crafted story never seems to go for obvious embellishments; and, this helps it smolder with credibility. Believability breeds suspense. Cooper is outstanding as a disgruntled worker who remains frightening while losing power. Phillippe, who once seemed unlikely to become a determined, successful actor, proves it again. And, Ms. Linney guarantees a top-notch supporting cast. Hopefully, producers won't let Mr. Ray get away with directing only two feature films - because this and his "Shattered Glass" (2003) should certainly be joined by others.
******** Breach (2/12/07) Billy Ray ~ Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney, Caroline Dhavernas
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