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|Index||199 reviews in total|
Chris Cooper is a talented character actor. I don't know why he is
wasting that talent in third rate movies. It is hard to qualify a movie
as "the worst movie of the year", but it's one of the worst I've seen
in a while.
Breach is loosely based on a true life story of an FBI incident involving counter-espionage. Aside from the impressive pedigree, the movie lacks any other redeeming features. Throughout the film, the characters exchange ridiculous banter, littered with irrelevant clichés. On one occasion, in a meek attempt to portray a protagonist's "warped" value system, Chris Cooper's character mentions that he opposes the idea that women should be wearing pants. Apparently this offends his sense of the tacit hierarchy in the workplace. Two scenes later, an FBI agent assigned to investigate him is wearing, you guessed it, pants. And thus one is supposed to conclude that her wardrobe choice tacitly defends a woman's place in the workforce?
Seriously, is this the type of writing that is being taught in screen-writing seminars? It's crap! The whole movie is made up of these stupid quirky scenes. Blah. They're neither amusing nor insightful; they're just terrible to watch.
Don't see this movie. Ever.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
About the only fault I could find with this espionage thriller is the
slow pacing, which is a testament to its character development and
building dramatic suspense.
Still, the tale of the downfall of FBI traitor Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper, "American Beauty") who sold sensitive secrets to the Soviets for almost 20 years is extremely well-acted and intriguing, nonetheless.
It's more an homage to the gritty, realistic films such as "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold," "The Falcon and the Snowman" and "The Conversation."
It's late 2000, and while the FBI has suspicions about Hanssen, they have no solid proof of his alleged spy activities. With an entire staff of agents working on his case, more personal attention is still necessary.
Enter agent trainee Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe, "54," "Crash"), who is set up as a clerk for Hanssen in the Department of Security Assurance an entity made up to trap the senior intelligence analyst.
The bureau informs O'Neill that he was brought in to keep an eye on Hanssen's "sexually deviant" Internet postings; but it is soon apparent that the church-going family man is a much tougher (and much more intelligent) nut to crack.
Invited into his home, as well as his confidence, the status-seeking O'Neill questions his superiors (including Laura Linney and Dennis Haysbert) about the direction and legitimacy of the entire investigation.
Only later does O'Neill discover that his boss is wanted for a far more devastating crime. Evidently, Hanssen's espionage activities resulted in the worst breach of national security in the country's history (although we still do not know what devastation former National Security Adviser under Clinton, Sandy Berger's stealing of secret documents may cause).
It may come as a surprise to many that Hanssen actually almost got away with a much lesser charge (a concealed weapons rap) , but his ego and religious zeal lead him to fall into the bureau's last-ditch trap.
Despite the pacing, there are several moments of pure tension where Hanssen almost uncovers the plot that O'Neill is trying to keep from him.
All of this keeps us on the edge of our seats despite knowing the outcome (if we didn't before, the movie opens with a press conference by then attorney general John Ashcroft announcing Hanssen's arrest). This is a tribute to the taut, seamless script, a debut effort by Adam Mazer and William Rotko; and direction by Billy Ray ("Shattered Glass").
While Cooper, is marvelous, as usual, in this low key role, it's Phillippe that overcomes his pretty boy image to excel here.
With such prestige pictures as "Gosford Park" and "Flags of Our
Fathers" on his resume, Ryan Phillippe continues to carefully select
projects and can proudly add "Breach" to the list of his
accomplishments. Based on a true story that took place in the nation's
capital only a few years back, "Breach" details the entrapment of
master spy Robert Hanssen, who irreparably damaged the country's
security over many years and today languishes in a federal prison. The
story is told through the eyes of Eric O'Neill, an FBI agent who is
recruited to work as a clerk for Hanssen. O'Neill, well played by
Phillippe, observes, records, and reports every movement and detail of
Hanssen's life to a team of agents who are eager to catch the spy
during one last information drop. Laura Linney plays the agent who is
the liaison between O'Neill and the team. An actress who rarely
falters, Linney is outstanding as the career woman who wears pants,
eats TV dinners, and does not even have a cat for companionship.
However, the center of this tautly made film is Chris Cooper as Hanssen. Complex beyond description, Cooper's Hanssen does the near impossible in turning an unlikeable traitor into an almost sympathetic human being. Hanssen is loved by his grandchildren, while he betrays U.S. contacts to the KGB, who execute them. He devoutly attends Mass and Confession, while secretly filming himself and his wife having sex and mailing the tapes overseas. He loves the Andrew Sisters, hates women in pants, and keeps an arsenal in his trunk. Unfortunately, the film never provides a motive for Hanssen's actions or treason, and his sexual peccadilloes go unexplained as well. How he rationalized the crucifix in his office with his subversion is a mystery that may likely die with him. Ironically, the smiling face of former Attorney General Ashcroft beams down on Hanssen's desk while he betrays his country. The problems that plague Phillippe's character at home are better illustrated. O'Neill must keep his work secret even from his wife, which becomes increasingly problematic as Hanssen invades their home not only via work, but also with his proselytizing for Catholicism.
With three fine performances, a perhaps-too-tight script, and crisp direction by Billy Ray, "Breach" is engrossing film-making. However, viewers who were intrigued by the film will rush to their Internet connections to Google up the answers to such dangling threads as the fate of Hanssen's family, the references to Hanssen's "sexual deviance," and the motivation for his betrayals. Despite minor quibbles, "Breach" is the rare adult film of quality to be released early in the year. Perhaps its surprising appearance bodes well for the rest of 2007.
I can't believe what IMDb says about this film except for maybe the
acting of Chris Cooper, but even then it is very superficial. This is
not even a good film, it is downright propaganda on behalf of the FBI.
All you actors should be ashamed of yourselves or maybe you are all
such patriots. Laura Linney,Chris Cooper, I did admire your acting up
to now. It was ironical to see a picture of J Edgar Hoover on the wall
in the last scenes. Maybe that should have reminded you of all your
fellow Americans who were destroyed by the FBI never mind the countless
As I watched this film I kept thinking to myself there must be a twist in this, Hasson is being set up, he can't be as naive as this. But no it is a straight story from beginning to end of a young 20 year old who supposedly outsmarts one of the 'smartest spies in US history'. We are also kept reminded that it is a true story, even though it comes from an agency who excels in lies, deceit.
Spies who spy on spies.
This movie was interesting because it guided you into the minds of the trader as well as the betrayed.The movie was fast paced and flowed well without a lot of unnecessary dialog typical of a "based on a true story" movie.It was an interesting look into our government and the human ego at the same time.The writers did an excellent job of finding a way to show how many people were effected on so many levels and in so many varying ways.The surprising thing is that you end up feeling compassion for everyone including the very person responsible for so much pain. Everyone is guilty of something. This movie makes you think back to "that thing you did wrong" and question your motivations.A real thought provoker as well as a debate starter! I think this movie is great to see with your mate, friends,as well as family.(worth my $7.75)
Buoyed by some decent reviews, and having been a fan of Chris Cooper
since "Matewan", I was ready for a good espionage thriller. I was
mistaken, this is more a standard drama, with little effort to give
much depth to his life or his capture. Instead, it concentrates most of
the time on the Mentor/Student relationship O'Neill is assigned to
fill. By the third act, little intrigue has been generated, and we are
left with O'Neill's torn life of living undercover done better in "The
Departed" or "Donnie Brasco". Even for what the movie does concentrate
on, Hanssen's secret perversions and paranoia, you are left with little
explanation at the end. Would it have hurt to get a few extra scenes of
Laura Linney putting together the vast Hanssen case, all those 50
investigators uncovering the worst espionage case in U.S. history?
Instead, it's O'Neill's wife's displeasure of being married to a
(potential) FBI agent.
Cooper's acting is fine, but is still trapped in a narrow view of the two months leading to his arrest. A mundane office, with mundane hallways, in a mundane federal building. How did he get in contact with the Russians? There are only blips of back-story. Those who remember Cooper in a similar role in "The Bourne Identity", there is no sense of danger in Hanssen's character, just a man slowly being caught in his own web.
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.
Here's a film with all the usual suspects of a stylish cat and mouse thriller: agents, double agents, entrapments, liars and loyalties... But as it turns out, these are mere accessories to a script which itself is a weak psychological portrait of an aging spy who doesn't really seem to be fooling anyone after all. Despite my love for Chris Cooper, his all-important character never quite feels dangerous or cunning enough to bring the audience to the edge of their seats. Plus, the writing is relatively flat for this genre - no twists, no complications, no surprises. Not that we always need to be shocked by the turn of movie events, but the plot never develops past the first motivation, to convict "the worst traitor in U.S. History." But we know he is. It's a true story, we already know the basic details. This movie fails to find the drama beneath the account. On the other hand, despite its mediocrities, the movie is still not bad. The camera-work is clean and subtle, the characters are not uninteresting, the acting works... A six star achievement. I only wish I had been convinced by the film that these events had the magnitude for a more dramatic realization.
'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.
It even felt a little too boring, too. The story of a government agent
tasked on spying on the worst US spy in history. I can't stop wondering
what would have happened if they didn't catch the bad guy? Wouldn't the
lowly (soon to be) agent take the fall? It's all politics after all.
The movie did end in a more positive way than Donnie Brasco, with the
guy realizing his position and actually quitting.
All actors played well, Chris Cooper most of all. The story was based on true events, but the plot was clearly manipulated in order to make the movie bearable. After all, when you know someone betrays you, the act of catching them is only a detail.
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