Sunday, July 01, 2007

Breach: Grade B


Breach (2007)

Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney. Director Billy Ray.

Cooper is Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who sold secrets to the Soviet Union and Russians until caught and sentenced in 2002. His newly assigned assistant (Phillippe) works for FBI counterespionage and is supposed to get incriminating evidence on Cooper. The movie is thus a cat and mouse between the clever, intuitive, and paranoid Hanssen and the untested but ambitious young assistant. Laura Linney is Phillippe’s control officer in a standout performance. The realistic squalor of government offices is palpable and the acting is competent. The story is one big mind game, yet unlike All the President’s Men, another mind-game movie, there is no forward momentum, no unfolding development, no surprise. Manufactured suspense, such as waiting for a download to complete while the boss’s key turns in the lock, is so clich├ęd it no longer creates tension. The actual Hanssen case is far more interesting than this movie. Why couldn’t they have shown his career of deception and its FBI fallout? Movies are a visual medium. The film also did not adequately portray his motivation. He is intelligent, arrogant and feels underappreciated, but that could describe a lot of us, and we don’t become traitors. Cooper gives a fine reptilian performance, but his character remains opaque. In all, an unsatisfying but enjoyable story worth hearing.

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