In creating The Breach I began to think of the symbiotic agreement Native Peoples had with salmon for millennia and how that has been compromised. There are hopeful restoration projects for... See full summary »
In February, 2001, Robert Hanssen, a senior agent with 25 years in the FBI, is arrested for spying. Jump back two months: Eric O'Neill, a computer specialist who wants to be made an agent is assigned to clerk for Hanssen and to write down everything Hanssen does. O'Neill's told it's an investigation of Hanssen's sexual habits. Within weeks, the crusty Hanssen, a devout Catholic, has warmed to O'Neill, who grows to respect Hanssen. O'Neill's wife resents Hanssen's intrusiveness; the personal and professional stakes get higher. How they catch Hanssen and why he spies become the film's story. Can O'Neill help catch red-handed "the worst spy in history" and hold onto his personal life?Written by
To assist the filmmakers in accurate recreation of the 2001 arrest of Robert Hanssen, the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) gave the production an edited tape of the event so they could match it down to the last detail. See more »
In a number of scenes, computers were displayed clearly showing Microsoft 'Windows XP' screens. Windows XP did not appear until October 25, 2001, well after the time the movie was set. See more »
Sunday, the FBI successfully concluded an investigation to end a serious breach in the security of the United States. The arrest of Robert Hanssen, for espionage, should remind us all, every American should know, that our nation, our free society, is an international target, in a dangerous world.
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Slow paced and engaging spy drama based on character
Eric O'Neill is an ambitious young intel officer within the FBI, with hopes for more that he is currently being assigned. His hopes are both raised and dashed when he is assigned to work with veteran agent Robert Hanssen, who is a known sexual defiant. The FBI want to know who else has been involved with his internet postings and require O'Neill to log every action, every comment and find out as much as possible while essentially also working as a clerk. A job is a job but O'Neill finds himself quite liking the grouchy but amiable senior agent and wondering what the point of this assignment is, as he appears to be wasting his time.
Based on a true story, so I'm not sure how much of the detail (or even sweep) is true or artistic license, this is a quite satisfying drama that surprised me by how much I liked it. I hadn't heard anything really about it before watching it and I assumed it would be the usual spy thriller a la The Recruit, with twisty plots, running with guns and shouting. Instead what I got was a much slower and quieter drama that takes as much from the characters as it does from the story itself. It is not an easy sell but it works because the delivery "gets" what is required. The sweep of the narrative is engaging but what makes it succeed is the way it builds the two central characters so they are both of value to the viewer. I didn't think that O'Neill was the main character so much as a required device to get the audience involved with Hanssen. This allows the complex character to be built up and, while never totally understood, I was left with conflicting emotions about him and his motivations for what he did.
I have not put that very well but with this in mind the performances are key. I'm not a big fan of Phillippe to say the least but here he does good restrained work. He is not brilliant but he does just what the film needs. What he seems to benefit from is a great turn from Cooper. Cooper plays all the conflicting parts of his character really well so that, while not making total sense, they convince as reality. It is a great performance and he does make the film. In smaller roles Linney, Cole Quinlan and Haysbert are nice finds that add a sense of quality to the film. Dhavernas didn't work that well for me and it was just as well that her character's involvement was minimal.
Breach is a grown-up spy film, not one for those looking for twisty narrative with a running and shouting conclusion. It delivers a satisfying story where we already know the ending and it does it by building the characters and relationships around the lead two to draw the viewer in. The performances from Cooper and Phillippe are worthy of the material as well, doing it justice and making it work.
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