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|Index||212 reviews in total|
*** 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.
Even though you know how it's going to end, you are intrigued the whole way through. Chris Cooper does an absolutely phenomenal job as Hanssen. There were so many things that were portrayed by his simple subtleties. The movie is suspenseful the whole way through. Although this movie is an excellent spy movie, it is not in the same genre as James Bond or Spy Game. This is just a retelling of the dramatic events that led up to the arrest of Hanssen. It's more like a documentary/suspense film than an action movie. But nevertheless, it is an excellent movie. I don't know how much of the movie is based on facts and how much is made up, but it was entertaining.
Ryan Philippe has improved as an actor in every film. This one is no
exception. This time, he is an employee of the FBI, who is assigned the
task of investigating and helping to arrest the most dangerous spy ever
to infiltrate the FBI, Robert Hanssen, who is played by Chris Cooper,
in a nuanced performance. Caroline Dhavernas, who plays Ryan's wife, is
Besides being a top information officer in the FBI, Robert Hanssen was a notorious spy for the Soviet Union in the seven year period right before the "Evil Empire" fell apart in 1991. Hanssen was directly responsible for the exposure and deaths of several turncoats inside the KGB. In exchange for the information, Hanssen (like Aldrich Ames before Ames' arrest in 1994) was paid hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars by the Soviets. Having almost reached mandatory retirement age in the FBI, Hanssen was finally arrested in 2001. Hanssen was later sentenced to life in solitary confinement in a federal prison.
The film has splendid cinematography of various scenes in the Washington, D.C., area. The plot is arresting and dramatic. Fascinating details concerning the inner workings of the FBI, including office politics and jealousy, are explored.
Those who work in the FBI are shown to be under a lot of pressure and ambivalence with strict rules and austerity. Perhaps, this is necessary in a taxpayer-supported government agency. But, this bureaucratic and financial pressure may be a factor in the large number of turncoats that appear in the American law enforcement and intelligence agencies, from time to time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based off of the true story of the biggest security breach in the U.S.
government history, the film delivers a powerful and intense tale of
federal agent Robert Hansen, whom was apprehended and "caught in the
act" for selling classified information to the Russians.
Ryan Phillippe gave a strong performance as the new coming agent who is sent on the dreaded task of observing Robert Hansen. His internal struggles of being loyal to his immediate boss (Laura Linney) and country, while spying on a fellow agent, in the mix with not being able to tell the truth to his nosy wife (Caroline Daverhnas), implodes on camera with very believable acting. Phillippe was astounding! With all these events at hand, it all adds up to being a crisis that was compressed into a tight thrill ride. But despite all of this action, the film tended to drag a bit, making my butt itch a little.
And last but not least, Chris Cooper, who played Robert Hansen, gave a very compelling and chilling performance as Hansen, whom on the outside is a solemn, respectable church going man who is devoted to his family and country, but on the inside is a master manipulator and player for the Soviets. This was truly one of Cooper's best performances.
The film was very well done, tying all the knots at the end, leaving no plot holes. Throughout though, the film had thrills, chills, plot twists, worthy acting, and a chilling ending, even though it was slow at times, but it does not let-up one bit!
Overall ***1/2 out of ****
One reviewer describes Chris Cooper's Robert Hanssen as having a "heavy
dose of arrogance and a shifty, sneaky piety," and as "something of a
jerk." Further "He's suspicious, disdainful of superiors and his new
aide, and a little too-willing to break the rules." It sounds like the
reviewer is a big fan of those public servants who "don't rock the
boat," and plod along until they collect their pension. Me, I am a fan
of the character Cooper played and thought Hanssen to be the ideal
Now, that is not to dismiss what he did. He was a spy and deserved to be caught. Breach is the story of how that happened, and it was a real delight. Cooper was magnificent, and I look forward to seeing him again in The Kingdom. Laura Linney was equally good, even though we did not get to see as much of her. I have only seen Ryan Phillippe in two movies before this, and I do not recall him in either one. His character here is equally memorable.
Don't get me wrong; I am a huge fan of the Bourne trilogy, and love what Matt Damon is doing on screen with that work, but sometimes I like my espionage in a British vein - psychological, suspenseful, and, dare I say it, intellectual, rather that a constant steam of explosions and car chases. Breach fits the bill and was a satisfying excursion.
In a day and age where they seem to make movies that cater to mongoloids, it was refreshing to see "Breach." An intelligent film with a well-written story--that's all I ask for! I saw this film with my mom, and she thought it was OK. She felt the story was good, but felt it made in a very quiet, boring fashion. And therein lies the problem. Why do people have to watch a movie that's brimming with explosions, special effects, and car chases? Why can't a good story in itself be satisfying to people? I'm sure plenty of people won't like the film, because it's a bit slow-moving and doesn't contain much action. But if you're like me and favors a good story over everything else, you should enjoy the film. People like to pick on Ryan Philippe, because...well, he's a young actor. It's fashionable to insult young actors. Sure, he's no Dustin Hoffman, but give the kid a break! He's pretty darn good, and has gotten better since his "Cruel Intention" days. It helps that he's playing off a great veteran character actor like Chris Cooper, who (as you can imagine) steals the film. Contrary to what you may gather from the trailers, his character isn't your typical ruthless villain. He's actually a decent human being in many aspects. To me, that must propose a much bigger challenge for an actor. It's probably quite easy to play a character like, say, The Joker in "Batman." To play an evil character with decent, human qualities is difficult, and I would even go as far as saying Cooper deserves an Oscar nod. The supporting cast also contains such talents as Laura Linney and Dennis Haysbert. A solid script, a solid cast--I certainly can't ask for much more!
Billy Ray has directed a smash hit with "Breach". The pre-release hype is fulfilled in this spy thriller that literally glues one to the seat in the theater. It was definitely worth the wait, and the marketing has been highly successful in that our entire theater was packed to the very last seat. Chris Cooper gives a commanding yet convincing performance as the counterspy who was responsible for the greatest breach in our intelligence security. He is well studied, and shows the hyper religiosity that this man used in his daily life. The greatest line in the film is delivered by his character when he says "I do matter". Ryan Phillipe plays Eric O'Niel, the young, agent to be who aptly fills his character with the innocence of a novice in the secretive business of his career. Even David Huband plays a gay photographer in an extremely believable way, and he does his best to occupy Hanssen while O'Niel attempts to retrieve a Palm Pilot that belongs to his "Boss". Bruce Davison plays O'Niel's dad, John, in a scene that is most tender when he offers advice to his son in his occupational endeavors. Kathleen Quinlan is also convincing as the hyper-religious wife, Bonnie Hanssen. And Laura Linney plays Kate Burroughs, the dominant authority who is the true "Boss" in the compelling spy drama. It is early in the year for nominations of best film, but it should be high on the list of films in one's "must see" category. Don't miss it.
When Hollywood gets hold of a true story, the first thing that goes out
of the window is the truth, but if the result is a better story, so
what. The denizens of the film industry are (by and large) not trained
historians, but they do know how to reach a climax, in the cinematic
sense. So I don't really care that the real mega-traitor Robert Hanssen
is a shy and quiet nerdish fellow totally different from the rude and
arrogant character superbly portrayed here by Chris Cooper, and that
Eric O'Neill's part in Hanssen's apprehension is grossly exaggerated.
This film should be judged on its own terms as an entrant in the spy
suspense drama genre.
Despite the lack of James Bond-type action and despite the fact that we know the ending (the film begins with a TV clip of Attorney General Ashcroft announcing Hanssen's arrest) we are kept involved by the relationship between the wet-behind-the-ears hunter and his formidable prey. Hanssen is a fascinating character, a conservative, devout, family-loving Catholic who dabbles in home-made pornography and who is prepared to sell his country's secrets for (not very much) money to the antichrist itself, the Soviet Union. You won't get a good explanation of why he did it just a few suggestions. But Chris Cooper does such a good job of building his complex and flawed character that it hardly matters. In fact Ryan Phillipe, who is usually cast just as a pretty face, has a hard time as Eric matching Cooper's theatrics. He is not very convincing when, toward the end, he is called upon to manipulate Cooper into the trap the FBI has prepared.
Laura Linney does a nice job as Kate Burroughs, the agent in charge of Eric, a spinster "without even a cat". After his experience, I can understand why Eric decided law practice might be more his thing the FBI used him pretty ruthlessly. Kate remarks at one point that Hanssen had pretty well neutralised all the counterintelligence work done by the FBI over 20 years. (The FBI, incidentally is largely confined to domestic work). But the American intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, compromised the Soviet side as well. So Spy versus Spy has wound up like the Mad Magazine comic strip they have eliminated each other. Meanwhile the real menace to our civilization, militant Islamic fundamentalism, was allowed to grow unchecked, and indeed, as in the case of the mujahideen in Afghanistan, encouraged. Hanssen was given life in prison and we are told at the end spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement - proof of the vindictiveness of the officialdom who failed to detect him over 20 years. I recall him saying to his boss at the end that "why" isn't important, but he sounds like a man at war with himself. The more upright he appears to others the more he wants to negate all that he stands for. Well, he certainly succeeded. Graham Greene and John Le Carre understood the psychology of this kind of spy well, and, as we have seen, there's no reason why America can't produce similar characters.
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
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.
I mean this movie keeps you on the edge of your seat, you'll keep wondering what happens next. The movie starts out with young agent wanna be Eric O' Neill(Ryan Phillipe) is giving the case of a lifetime, when he assigned to spy on F.B.I agent Robert Hanssen, who is suspected of being a traitor. Eric thinks it is simple case, when he goes to work for Hanssen, but has it goes on, it becomes a feeling of agony, when the lies become bigger then the truth. Ryan Phillipe and Chris Cooper are excellent in there roles. This movie in a way makes you feel the drama of O'Neill and Hanssen. Please don't miss this movie, if you are in the mood for a good spy thriller.
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