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|Index||201 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One too easily forgets how multifarious and rich a movie can be. Billy Ray's Breach transposes history into something with exquisite nuance. Several of my favorite actors create a splendid ensemble. Not only Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney, Dennis Haysbert, Caroline Dhavernas, Kathleen Quinlan but also actors with only brief time on screen help Mr. Ray and his editors weave a tight film with rich undertones. Several commentators have voiced observations about why this is an outstanding film. This work is already high on my list of spy films, but even more it recalls the films of classic Italian and Swedish directors from the fifties and sixties.
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.
*** 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!
One of those rare Hollywood movies absolutely fascinating, intelligently written and directed, and a not to be missed performance by Chris Cooper. I always enjoyed his movies (October Sky and The Horse Whisperer come to mind), but this was the role of his career in terms of the complexity of the character he was playing and his approach. We are told the ending at the beginning, but being a true story the ending is already well known. I wanted to see this movie to see how Hansen thought and justified his treason. His use of the Catholic church to justify himself as a human being reminds me of a scandal we had here in Phoenix in the early '90's with an individual (Charle Keating) who literally stole peoples' life savings from the Lincoln Savings and Loan to build hotels and office buildings, albeit illegally, but he also used the church to justify and cover-up his misdeeds. He too is spending his last days in prison. Back to the movie - I think it is not to be missed, as the story is so strong and presented so well without any of the usual Hollywood gimmicks, sort of reminiscent of "All the President's Men" in its understatement of one of the most serious crimes in U.S. history.
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.
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