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BREACH (2007)

Director: Billy Ray

Screenplay: Adam Mazer and William Rotko

Cast: Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney, Dennis Haysbert, Caroline Dhavernas, Gary Cole...

MPAA Classification: PG-13
Running Length: Color, approx 111 minutes

Genre: Espionage

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

The FBI has a mole. They've known about it for some time but haven't been able to catch him at it. "It" being passing secrets to the Russians. In fact, at one point, years earlier, they had unknowingly put the mole in charge of finding the mole. Needless to say, he didn't "find" himself. So the agency is going to try again. By now they've figured out who the mole is they just can't prove it.

Based on a true story, the movie begins by revealing the outcome and then sets about showing the viewer how it all came to be. Normally, I hate movies that tell me the ending before I've had a chance to get to know the characters and the situation, but I must admit, this presentation of revealing the consequences of FBI agent Robert Hanssen's 20 years of selling U.S. government secrets to the Russians and then showing how the Bureau finally managed to catch him at it, kept me completely enthralled.

Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper) is wound so tightly that I almost expected him to physically explode during several of the tense scenes, especially when he is confronting agent-in-training Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe) his young, inexperienced, new assistant. O'Neill is in place to provide his superiors with information that may allow them to arrest Hanssen on what he believes are morals charges, but later learns are more serious charges involving spying.

I think, for me, one of the strongest aspects of this movie is the way the characters interact. Hanssen is cold, calculating, hypocritical, and creepy. He mistrusts nearly everyone. He confronts and challenges O'Neill at almost every meeting, whether it be about work or religion or the younger man's marriage. On the other hand, O'Neill is clearly floundering and inexperienced. He knows his boss is being investigated yet he is drawn to the older, more experienced man, viewing him almost as a mentor.

I was surprised at the level of tension the film maintained. I was literally on the edge of my seat at times and in the final minutes I found myself holding my breath until Hanssen had been successfully captured, as I already knew he would be.

If you missed this movie at the theaters and then skipped over it when it came out on DVD because you picked up a copy of "The Good Shepherd" to watch and were very disappointed (or bored) and thought "Breach" would be more of the same, do yourself a favor and checkout a copy next time you're trying to pick a movie to watch. I don't think you'll be disappointed. I didn't recall much from the actual case against Hanssen, nor did I expect a documentary. I am satisfied that the movie was exciting and entertaining, even if it wasn't an exact portrayal of what happened. And Chris Cooper's portrayal of Hanssen leaves a haunting, lingering, uneasiness in my mind. How many other agents of Hanssen's intellect and ability has the Bureau trivialized and how many secrets have they stolen and sold to our enemies?


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