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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having no previous information about Robert Hanssen, I entered the
theatre with no preconceived notions or high expectations, which, in
part, might be held responsible for the appraisal i honour this film
Chris Cooper is brilliant playing the role of a mischievous, intriguing FBI agent who keeps dodging suspicions linked to a leak of information to the soviets.
Eric O'Neill, bravely interpreted by Ryan Phillippe tags along, trying to earn Hanssen's trust and ultimately find out if he's THE mole who's been passing out information for years to rival agents.
In a hectic background, Eric is constantly being put under pressure by Hanssen, who starts compromising Eric's relationship with his wife. At any given point, some other "clerk" would have backed out and preferred to move away from the imminent chaos. However, O'Neill puts himself to the test and tries to shed some light on the obscure personality of Hanssen.
For those of you who enjoy an above-average spy movie, here's a chance to witness a stupendous interpretation from both actors Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Breach" was quite good in a low-key sort of way. I love a good
espionage thriller (REAL espionage, not crappy "Mission: Impossible 2"
espionage) and this film definitely subscribed to the "Three Days of
the Condor" style of less is more. It is restrained and subtle in a way
that a lot of people might find boring, but the performances and
relationship between Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe are what really
make the film interesting.
Cooper's character is an enigma that both Phillippe, and the audience, are constantly trying to figure out. If you've seen the trailers you know that Phillippe is first assigned to watch Cooper under false pretenses, and during the first portion of the film the discrepancy between the man Phillippe's superiors are telling him about and the man Phillippe is interacting with is what draws you into the story. Is Cooper just really good at hiding his secret life? Or does the FBI have an ulterior motive for subjecting Cooper to such scrutiny? It's interesting to watch Phillippe's frustration as he desperately tries to figure out what Cooper, and the bureau, are up to.
When the truth is finally revealed about forty minutes into the film, the suspense is suddenly ratcheted up, and you begin to squirm through many expertly devised scenes in which Phillippe is unbearably close to being found out. Cooper is one of the best character actors in the business, and he brilliantly plays with the audience's sympathies (by equally attracting and repelling us).
I applaud the filmmakers for having the courage to keep "Breach" from plunging into Hollywood convention by instead adhering to this true-life story that, in many ways, is much more compelling. I'd definitely recommend it.
When Hanssen and O'Neill entered the church together for the first time, O'Neill did not make the sign of the cross correctly. He touched his forehead, then each shoulder, then his chest. The proper orders is what Hanssen did, forehead, chest, each shoulder. Any Catholic, especially one like me--cradle Catholic, 13 years of Catholic school, should have noticed this error. O'Neill as a consultant to the movie and a Jesuit-educated person, should have caught this mistake--especially as a competent spy. Bonus points for anyone who knows what city and state Gonzaga is in. I think Laura Linney looks like Hellen Hunt.
It's all right. Better than all right. It will keep you interested the
whole time, which is more than you can say for some movies. However,
nothing too original comes out of Breach. It's main attribute is Chris
Cooper's chilling performance.
It's a finely made film, to be sure. Ryan Phillipe and Laura Linney are fine in lead and supporting roles, respectively. I have not seen anything with Mr. Phillipe before this, and he showed that he can pull off an acting role just fine. And of course Ms. Linney remains a good actress.
But, like I said, it's Chris Cooper who really steals the show. His performance is both satisfyingly rude and yet, he makes you feel for him. This is, at heart, a story of a man who desperately wanted to be needed, and eventually destroyed himself. Mr. Cooper is very affecting. His performance alone is a reason to see it.
Yet, it's nothing amazing, and definitely nothing to the Bourne series that is completing itself later this year. It's an interesting look at a relationship a young punk has with a man who truly was the only of his kind. That's all it is. 6/10 stars for me and no more.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Chris Cooper has become a great actor. I loved his role in the Bourne Identity. He plays the CIA role perfectly and I think he deserves an award for this movie. It was not a fast moving movie. It just showed how a CIA agent couldn't stop spying on his own country despite the guilt. It showed his guilt by going to church everyday. It showed his paranoia by snapping at his assistant and shooting at him in the woods to test his loyalty. The movie did a good job at showing how his somewhat introverted personality like when he was getting his picture taken. It was like it was his drug and he was addicted. It was only 110 minutes. I wish it was longer.
After enjoying so many great films at the end of each year, we're meant
to suffer and pay for it at the start of each New Year. Usually studios
tend to empty their trash baskets in the months of January and
February, which always end up being the worst time of the year to go to
the movies. Thankfully one decent film managed to escape in good
condition this year; Breach, the new thriller based on the true story
of the greatest security breach in U.S. history.
Ryan Phillippe plays Eric O'Neill, a smart, young FBI rookie determined to make the rank of an official agent for the bureau. O'Neill is specifically chosen and re-assigned by his straight-as-an-arrow handler, Kate Burroughs (played by Laura Linney), to get up close and personal with his new boss, Robert Hanssen, played with a fierce, calculating subtlety by Academy Award winning actor Chris Cooper.
On the surface Hanssen seems like any other ordinary, dedicated agent, just serving his country, but upon a much closer examination, O'Neill learns that appearances can be deceiving. His loving family and being a devoted Catholic (always praying and attending mass) seems to be the perfect cover to bewilder any and all preconceived notions that O'Neill has. No wonder he was been able to get away with it for so long.
The FBI has reason to believe that Hanssen has been selling secrets to the Russians for years; they just don't have a solid enough case to put him away for good and they want to catch him in the act, red handed. O'Neill spies on his boss, trying to get any inside information on his daily activities to report back to Burroughs.
Breach could have been a tremendously boring drama considering it's mostly just people talking about spying and probing for nearly two hours. Thankfully director and co-writer Billy Ray, whose last film was 2003's Shattered Glass, has an air-tight script and sturdy performances to rely on to keep things gravitated and moving along at a brisk pace. It's a moral drama, pulsating with tension throughout, and with the performances, it's not so much what's said aloud, but more about what lurks behind the eyes.
Phillippe's performance is solid enough for the lead, but it's Cooper's unflinching performance as Robert Hanssen that's so magnetic that it steals the show; creating a character that we can easily dislike, yet as sly and repulsive as he is, we're still intrigued to understand how he turned out to be so rotten and why he decided to betray the country he loved so much.
Breach doesn't really offer any answers for Hanssen's crimes, but nevertheless we are fascinated to see one of our own stray from the path and get caught in the snare by a constant game of cat-and-mouse. The film isn't dumbed down or stylishly over-the-top like Tony Scott's Spy Game. This is a solid little intellectual thriller, that's focused on showing us the how, while dispensing with the why. Breach is as cold and hard as the facts itself, and because it doesn't insult your intelligence is why it is the first good film of the year, and definitely worth the price of admission.
Breach, a film directed by Billy Ray and starring Ryan Phillippe and
Chris Cooper, is a very good espionage film about a true security
breach in the US. The film is about Robert Hannsen, an FBI agent who
has been spying for the Russian for over 20 years. In this time, he has
done an enormous amount of damage to the United States, some of it
irreversible. The protagonist of the film, Eric O'Neill, is played by
Ryan Phillippe. O'Neill is charged with spying on Hannsen under the
impression that Hannsen is a sexual deviant.
The acting is very, very good. Chris Cooper is incredibly convincing, both as a pervert and as a traitor. Cooper's performance is likely to receive some nods from awards shows come 2008, and shows that he can continue to show great performances in many films. Phillippe is also very impressive in his own role. He perfectly conveys the character, particularly showing anxiety in high-tension scenes. With his great performances in Crash and Flags of our Fathers, it looks like Phillipe is quickly rising to become a solid actor. I truly hope to see him land more leading roles in big films.
Where the film falls short is in its screenplay at times. The writers and the director could have been slightly more ambitious, and actually given the film more personality. It feels somewhat hollow at times, there is nothing truly special about it. There is nothing special about the soundtrack either. The cinematography is pretty good, but not impressive. The dialogue is done well though, and the casting is excellent for almost all of the characters in the film.
Overall, while Breach is a good film with superb acting, its lack of spirit makes it fall just short of excellent. Some moments really feel too "Hollywood." For example, in one scene, FBI squads make arrests and transport prisoners in mini-vans. Although the film is adapted from an incredible story, the film itself doesn't do anything incredible.
Too many reviews (i.e. the New Yorker) seem to miss what's what, here. The "mystery" is spoiled about 30 seconds into the flick. The thriller side is not. But in the end the film is less about spying than it is about faith -- both religious and interpersonal. Chris Cooper is superb, as always. Ryan Philippe's boyish innocence plays against that well. Laura Linney's seeming iciness is spot-on. Even Bruce Davison, in a cameo, is excellent. The film is dark (visually, not just conceptually) but well worth the price of a ticket. And there should, if the world were a fair place, many awards to follow. One can but wonder why the release date was such a dead time of the movie year. Hardly the sunny comedy that might garner raves and attendance, in bleak February. But this is a film for grownups, anyway.
The stories about espionage appeared on a lot of movies.But we have seen two types of it.One type belongs to the shallow blockbusters with explosions and action but the other ones show the dark life of the spy.That movies(like The Conversation or The Tailor of Panama)do not focus on the spy who drives very expensive cars in the French coast who has the company of women while he shoots projectiles with his Seiko watch.That movies focus on the dangerous life of the spy who lives with fear and paranoia.The amazing movie Breach does the second style.We have not got shallow action scenes in here...this movie shows us how dangerous being a spy can be.Breach is,for the moment,the best film of 2007.The notable thing about this movie is that it could keep me all the time with suspense and tension and the movie shows us complex and fascinating characters.In 2003,the excellent actor Chris Cooper won a lot of recognition with his performance in Adaptation.After that film,we could see him as very different characters.But,on Breach,he brings the best performance of his career.His work in here is amazing.Ryan Phillipe is also great on his character and he surprised me because his work on other movies he had not stood out very much.Behind the perfect tension Breach produces on the spectator,we can see a critic to the United States.So,this movie also makes us think and go beyond to it and I found that perfect.Breach is an extraordinary film and a pleasure for the lovers of the cinema.The best film of 2007 so far.
Billy Ray does something very interesting in this film: He toys with
the audience. He utilized similar techniques in his previous film,
Shattered Glass, which I thought was also quite excellent and even
somewhat underrated. The former film, too, was a character study much
in the same way and along the same lines that Breach is. Ray places his
"villainous", deceitful character at the center of the film, and
portrays him in a way so undeniably human and rounded, when we the
audience hear about his wrong and fraudulent deeds, we can't even
believe it at first. It happens in Shattered Glass with Hayden
Christensen's Stephen Glass character (his only truly fine acting job,
if I may say so myself), and indeed, Ray's portrayal of the character
of Robert Hanssen manipulates us in just such a way. In utter
identification with Eric O'Neill, when we are first told about
Hanssen's dealings with pornography and even more so his selling
secrets to Russia, we simply can't believe it. Ray seems so fascinated
and fixated with Hanssen and has developed and portrayed him in such an
incredibly three-dimensional, rounded and well-developed way, he almost
neglects his other characters, who get far less development than
Hanssen does. Again, the same thing happened in Shattered Glass, but
this minor flaw doesn't take away from the big picture at all. It just
means the actors have a little less to work with.
As an actor's movie, this is one of those vehicles that really lets them loose. Chris Cooper, as the centerpiece of the film, delivers a subdued, vicious and absolutely incredible performance as Robert Hanssen, another very fine role in his already fruitful career. If this film is not forgotten by late this year, one can certainly hope for an Oscar nomination for Cooper. The other "higher-caliber" actor who does well in the film is Laura Linney, who is very high up on the "why hasn't she won an Oscar yet?" list. As I already mentioned, her character isn't developed quite enough to give her absolute liberty in the performance, but she does get a few tender and vulnerable moments to truly shine. Ryan Phillippe, on the other hand, is an actor I have a few problems with. He has had some great, meaty roles in fantastic movies this one being one of his meatiest but he never quite manages to get a major bite in. He is an okay actor that never exceeds that categorization and moves into the range of excellence. But I am confident, as he is still young, and with roles in films such as this one, Flags of our Fathers, Igby Goes Down and others, he is slowly building himself a repertoire of high-quality films that slowly but surely improve his skills by posing higher and more difficult obstacles for him to work around. His work in Breach may just be his best yet, but it still doesn't excel into greatness.
On a superficial level, everything about this film is solid. The direction, the design, the cinematography lighting and overall look of the film, the pace, the story everything is rock solid and well crafted. The true story aspect of the film did not necessarily have to stop it from becoming just another average espionage thriller and I had feared this as near the end it almost entered such territory but abruptly veered away but Ray does an excellent job at keeping the film focused on the fascinating story and on the characters, and not on the "action". The story itself is a fascinating, fascinating tale that, if treated well, was perfect for making a movie about, and Ray treats it expertly well. That said, the movie never quite reaches absolute greatness due to its naturally subdued nature. Ray is a good director, but he will never reach the heights of Wes Anderson, Michel Gondry or Craig Brewer simply because he keeps it simple and makes great-but-"regular" movies. Not that it's a bad thing: It's quite reassuring to know that one director is consistent at directing solid and interesting real-world drama/thrillers with fascinating stories, high production value and fascinating characters.
Finally, I must also comment on the musical score, which immediately caught my attention and which, at first, I thought was something out of Philip Glass' notebooks until a little patience during the credits revealed that it was one Mychael Danna, who had actually composed some absolutely fantastic film scores over the years in even more fantastic movies: Little Miss Sunshine, Capote, The Sweet Hereafter, The Ice Storm the list goes on. I don't necessarily remember every aspect of his work on those films (except for Little Miss Sunshine, which was also more recent and also features an immediately memorable and brilliant score), but I can safely say that his work on Breach is nothing short of brilliant, and just fantastic music on its own, besides the fact that it obviously and exquisitely enhances the tone and pace of the film.
Billy Ray is a good director, but never exceeds into greatness. Ryan Phillippe is a good actor, but never exceeds into greatness. Indeed, just about everything in this film is good even great but never exceeds into excellency, except for perhaps Chris Cooper's absolutely fascinating and powerhouse performance as Hanssen. Ray's character development is also exceptional; one can deduct from both this film and Shattered Glass that Ray seems to have an interest in deceitful, untrustworthy characters. The story is strong, intelligent and engaging, the film-making solid all around, and in all this is just a good example of fine but restrained film-making.
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