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I saw the previews and was enamored by the whole 'story'. First right
off the top, this film (Beside being a true story) is one of those one
in a million type films. The feeling that it gives is not one that is
congruent with the 'suspending reality' so that you can enjoy the movie
as some movies have become, many in the last twenty years. It's not
someone driving off of a building and the car crashes and they live or
someone gets shot and they just kind of keep going no-problem.
Sometimes having to suspend belief will destroy the experience for me
as a 'whole'. "BREACH" had none of this and all the right ingredients.
This grabs your senses and allows you to feel the close calls that take place, with the lead character (Ryan Phillipe) Eric O'Neill, right along with an unexpected treat of a performance that Chris Cooper gave!! Bravo to Mr. Cooper and right there with him, having to take the lead is Mr. Phillipe. Chris as 'Hanson' the boss, with incredible attitude. This man is trained to be deadly, he is a human lie detector and he is licensed to be...armed to the teeth. That is a combo that would make many, shrink in his place. The man has gotten people killed, for a living. When Hanson walked in the door and gave Eric the stare that he gave, it was terrifying. Hanson, had a killer's steely-eyed fix on the new comer O'Neill. I would have had a case of disastrous nerves if it had been me there, O'Neill was a man trained and improvised to overcome. A real 'victor'. Funny thing is, I didn't even remember Ryan in anything else, but I was astounded by his right on the line portrayal of his character. You just feel, like hey, this is the way it would have to be. I watched this on the fourth of July. I both enjoyed the film and was saddened (truly)by the treachery of this sack-of-crap double agent that special agent Robert Hanson is. It was time and he (Hanson) to me more that anything else no matter how much passion that he possessed, was simply ready...to be taken down.
This was a wonderful, wonderful end of your nerves, sweat-it-out, but well shot, cinematic experience. This is a highly-recommended feature in my library of good film. (*****)
Breach is a fascinating story of Robert Hansson, an FBI agent who for
over 20 years, passed classified information to the Soviet
Union/Russia. Chris Cooper is amazing in this role, which hopefully
will not be overlooked by the Academy Awards.
Also in this all-star cast is Ryan Philippe, who plays Eric O'Neill, an FBI agent sent undercover to investigate Hansson. O'Neill posed as Hansson's aide, recruited by Laura Linney's character. Dennis Haysbert, Gary Cole, Kathleen Quinlan, and newcomer Caroline Dhavernas also pitch in with stellar performances.
The real Eric O'Neill served as a consultant on this film and based on the bonus features on the DVD, it sounds like Cooper's portrayal was right on. When you watch this DVD, make sure to check out the bonus features. There are some very good commentaries on the true case of Hansson, including a report from Dateline NBC.
This film is engaging from the first minute to the last. If you like thrillers, you will really enjoy this movie. The fact that it is a real-life story makes it all the more compelling. Rating 10 of 10 stars.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Robert is the biggest spy in American history. The government has a big
problem and they need Eric to help them uncover what Robert has done.
The thing is that Eric has to pretend to work along side Robert and
everything is a lie. Most of this movie takes place in a tiny office
but it's still an edge of your seat movie. I held my breath throughout
most of the movie because I didn't know what was going to happen.
Especially that part with Robert's car.
The character of Robert gave me the chills. I would be terrified to work with him in fear of being caught because he can tell if someone is lying. I liked when Robert has to have his picture taken and the photographer wants to put makeup on him. That look Robert gave him was heart stopping. I liked that it was based on a real life security breach. It was a really interesting film. It grabbed my attention and didn't let go.
A riveting and intense character study, 'Breach' is a completely
engrossing mystery thriller. Chris Cooper headlines with a haunting and
unforgettable performance, while writer/director Billy Ray tautly spins
a web of intrigue and suspense. This fictionalized account of the
greatest security breach in US history is this year's first great film,
and so far the best of this short year.
In February of 2001, longtime FBI intelligence officer Robert Hanssen was arrested for disclosing valuable information about the US and its allies to Russia, he would ultimately be convicted and become known as the biggest traitor in America's history. 'Breach' tells a fictionalized story of the months leading up to Hanssen's arrest, which involved Eric O'Neal, a young FBI aspiring-agent. Recruited by Kate Burroughs, O'Neal embarks on an intense and frustrating cat-and-mouse game with Hanssen, a mission that will not only test his own will power, but his marriage as well.
It's detrimental that a film like 'Breach' have a more than adequate cast to sustain itself. Lucky for us, 'Breach' has Chris Cooper to its advantage. This under appreciated actor proves once again why he's one of the best actors working today. So smooth and stealthy he is, he holds this film in the palm of his hands. He portrays Hanssen down to a T, both as a God-fearing man and someone with a dark and dangerous double-life. One can only hope that he'll be remembered this December, but that seems unlikely. Ryan Philippe, who hasn't had much opportunity in the past to flex his abilities as an actor gets that chance this time around. He may not be at the point where he can headline a film by himself, but he does a good enough job with 'Breach' with the help of an all-star cast. I think the best is still in store for him. And any chance to see Laura Linney on screen is a chance worth taking, another outstanding actor who doesn't get the praise she deserves. Her role is small, but she charges every scene she appears in that makes her such a powerful presence.
You may ask, what could make 'Breach', a film which nearly tops 2 hours, so entertaining? There are no high-speed chases, no fiery explosions, no action sequences. 'Breach' relies completely on its characters to tell this story. And what a story it is. It's so intelligently written, the dialogue is top-notch and the pacing is excellent. And although we already know the eventual outcome of the story and its characters, 'Breach' is still such a suspenseful and intense experience that we may, for a brief moment, have a lapse in memory and ask ourselves, how is it all going to end? The film unfolds like a classic Hitchcock thriller, in which the audience is let in on the story more than the character's themselves are, and that makes the experience even more satisfying. It makes me hope that perhaps the days aren't over where a spy thriller such as this one doesn't have to rely on drawn out action sequences and gun stand-offs to get by, that a little wit and a compelling script is just what the doctor ordered.
'Breach' gets as much out of its actors as you could possibly hope for. It's what takes 'Breach' from being a smart thriller to a downright great movie. And so early on in the year, I couldn't have asked for more. 'Breach' is a film for those seeking a break from being smacked over the head with the continuous stream of romance and empty action flicks. It's smart, compelling, intense. What more could you ask for? And when you didn't think it could get any better, Chris Cooper lifts this film to a completely new level that'll leave you shocked and exhilarated.
Okay. The movie is based on "actual events." So why make the movie? Why not just show the newsreels about the guy who spied from the inside? Whenever a movie stresses that it's based on "actual events" it means only one thing - "BEWARE! You are experiencing this movie at your own risk. Literary license here is running amok!". Who is to know why the spy did what he did? And why try to figure it out? Why not just ask him? He did what he did ... and it caused damage, so we are told. And what about the other fellow sent in to spy on the spy? Yes, this movie is based on "actual events" just like the movie Titanic and every war movie. But no matter how creative the script and how skilled the actors, the fact is that something based on "actual events" is not the same as the real "actual event" and should not, and must not, be treated as such because the movie is a work of fiction which may not necessarily conform with the facts. Nevertheless, the movie is a credible work of art, with strong acting, especially from Chris Cooper, and a powerful message suggesting that perhaps Senator Joseph McCarthy's claims of subversion within the government may not have been all that far off the mark. If you don't know who Joseph McCarthy was then visit my review for Good Night, and Good Luck.
I struggled to find an effective summary line for this film.
Really,there's very little way to describe this show,either from an
objective viewpoint or subjective one. I must confess that my knowledge
of the FBI,the Robert Hanssen spy case or the people around it is
decidedly sparse.In fact,when I saw the dateline for the events in
question,I had to shake my brain because I seemed to have remembered
the events in question as being LONGER AGO than it was. Of course,all
of this is really of no issue,I found this film very well done.
Towards the end of 2000,the FBI gets wind of a mole in their ranks. They finally narrow it down to agent and computer whiz Robert Hanssen(Chris Cooper,in just "another day at the office" as an effective,nuanced character performance),and have just enough dirt on him to start a case,but yet to catch him in the act. That's where Eric O'Neill(Ryan Phillipe,who might be getting BOTH better roles AND doing better performances),a would-be FBI agent,enters into the fray,as he is recruited by a supervisory agent(LAura Linney,tough and inscrutable here)to track Hanssen in what turns into a part Cat-and-Mouse,part confidence scheme as O'Neill steadily gains HAnsen's(And his family's)trust. Of course,as per any spy film--based in pure reality or inspired fiction--the closer the pursuant comes to snaring his target,the closer he comes to being compromised.
THere is little suspense here,in essence,since it's been established that HAnssen was captured,but there's still enough tension in the delicate task of catching someone in the act of espionage without the mission being snuffed out. Whenever a movie can portray a real event where the end result is either already of common knowledge or is not a kept secret,and still able to create an amount of nervous uncertainty and suspense,THAT'S an accomplishment worth note. THe mood of the film is decidedly sober,and the action and pacing is deliberately,believably slow,which leads me to think that this is much more often how spies are caught and leaks found out. Fantastic performances by Cooper(who,if I recall correctly,is A LOT less creepy looking than the real Agent HAnssen),Phillipe,Linney and KAthleen Quinlan(As HAnssen's super-devout CAtholic wife)anchor what is a basically well-fleshed out movie(acting-wise)all around. Director Billy RAy wisely chooses to make the images as dark and foreboding as possible(nonetheleast of which because the story takes place in the winter months),even when some situations aren't as grim or nervous as others. If you like movies that take a studied,careful look at real-life tragedy/intrigue,then I'd like to recommend Breach to you.
First of all, I found this movie to be dominated by a powerful
performance by Chris Cooper, accompanied by the best Ryan Philippe
performance ever by far. The Cooper portrayal shows that his
performances of the past few years have been no flukes. That said, I
found all the actors to be "dead on" for their parts and the screenplay
exceptionally well written. I went because of good reviews and I was
I think the fact that nearly all of us knew the outcome going in, and for those who didn't John Ashcroft himself tells us in the first scene, gives it that touch of the different that makes it shine.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I consider Breach a true masterpiece! A film like this only comes along
once or twice a year! A pure joy to watch, and absolutely perfect in
every way! While I'm sure plenty of this "true story" is fabricated,
what's most important are the parts that are all too real!
The film makes a subtle, but scathing, indictment of Roman Cathoicism in particular and religiosity in general; likewise for the FBI and all other American intelligence agencies.
How could a twisted, homophobic creep find solace in Opus Dei, an ultra-conservative movement within the Roman Catholic Church? The answer is simple: Over the past 25 years Pope John Paul 2, and his close ally, Pope Bennedict have allowed the ultra-conservative elements of the Church to thrive. Meanwhile the liberal movements within the church - from former liberal Congressman Father Robert Drinan S.J. to Catholic theologians Fr. Charles Curran and Fr. Mathew Fox to the liberation theology seminaries of the developing countries - have been allowed to wither on the vine. (Actually Congressman Father Drinan was told to quit; theologian Curran was banned from his job; theologian Fox was "silenced" - (I kid you not!) - and he has since left the Church; the liberation theology seminaries have all since been closed.) Given the direction of the Church, I don't find it the least bit hard to believe convert Hanssen found comfort with a religious movement that would only be too happy to turn back the clock!
Next, how could the FBI allow one of it's top spies to betray the American people for around twenty years? To add insult to injury, the FBI remained clueless until Soviet defectors were paid 6 million dollars to spill the beans on Hanssen, and others like him! And these are same folks the American public are supposed to trust with their lives!
But in hindsight, the events of 9/11 proves when the chips are down, our lofty American intelligence agencies do not add up to a hill of beans. But they did blame everyone else for their failure because their "hands were tied" by laws protecting American privacy, and even by the "rule of law, itself!" I mean, it's war - first a Cold one, now a hot religious one - so anything goes!
But what was most endearing about this wonderful film is the very moving decision by our hero FBI agent to quit while the quitting was good! In other words, he had both the sense, and courage, to put his, and his wife's, emotional wellbeing ahead of his career with all its supposed glory!
Which left me with a smile on my face as I walked out of the theater!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film was well done from a couple of perspectives.
First, it was an eye-opening picture of one of the biggest traitors in American history. The story of the extent of Richard Hansson's perfidy and of the damage that he did to our intelligence gathering efforts for a couple of decades -- all while serving as a respected insider in what claims to be America's best investigative agency* -- was engrossing. Chris Cooper, as Hansson, gives an excellent performance as a profoundly troubled and twisted man, who is brilliant, unlikeable by all except his religious wife and his grandchildren and, ultimately, unfathomable. Similarly, Eric Phillippe was perfect as the young FBI clerk who became one of the important actors in Hansson's ultimate undoing (along w/ an army of other dedicated agents).
Second, Cooper/Hansson's observations about the state of the FBI's IT systems and intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities in early 2001 are spot-on and scary. It is quite easy to understand why any hints about the coming firestorm in Lower Manhattan were lost. Moreoever, the description of how the most important thing to most agents was who would get the office with a window (or the best G-car or the best or latest Blackberry) and who would get on the high profile cases that would advance his/her career is one of the Bureau's most disgraceful dirty secrets. Like Hansson, I remember when the Bureau sent all the fatties and "odd" agents to the Foreign Counter Intelligence squads -- "rubber gun squads." I believe one of those agents, an extreme fatty and member of a major American religious faith, fell in love with a Russian spy, causing considerable embarrassment but little damage. Although I have been away from federal law enforcement for a while, I suspect that things have not changed all that much even now.**
In the end, this movie was a good story (even though we knew the outcome from the beginning) and a lens that focused us on a glaring (and uncorrected?) deficit in our country's security. I have spent the last 12 or so hours trying to figure out why Hansson did it. As the movie made clear, I'm not alone.
*Others in law enforcement are more inclined to see the FBI as a legend in it's own mind!
**And I suspect that there is an added concern now in these post-911 times and that is moving potentially explosive investigations to someone else's desk (or to another agency) before they blow up on one's own watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
BREACH (2007) *** Chris Cooper , Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney, Caroline Dhavernas, Gary Cole, Dennis Haysbert, Kathleen Quinlan, Bruce Davison. Absorbing adaptation of the true- life account of FBI's taking down of one of their own, Robert Hanssen (Cooper in a stellar performance), who sold out his country to the Russians for 25 years until his arrest in 2001, thanks to a young, hungry agent Eric O'Neill (Phillippe, ditto), who was put into place by a covert operation causing a rift in O'Neill's situation: being mentored by a manipulative, charismatic rat. Well scripted by Adam Mazer, William Rotko, & director Billy Ray who weaves a taut, sharp & clever storyline that keeps you on the edge of your seat even though the outcome is already infamously realized.
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