Not A Movie Review ”Breach”
A bit of a background on the movie.. It is based on the case of the FBI counter intelligence agent Victor Hanssen who passed on state secrets to the Soviets in return for cash and diamonds over a 15 year period (There is a lot more information about Victor Hanssen here at wikipedia). He was caught party due to the efforts of a young FBI agent, Eric O’Neill a young FBI agent assigned to watch Hanssen while working as his aide. He was instrumental in figuring out that Hanssen was using a PDA to store information and he was able to recover the PDA briefly and download the contents which were then decoded. This gave the FBI the evidence it needed to put him away.
If you are looking for a spy thriller this is your movie, what it is not is an action flick. In fact a lot of the most interesting parts of the movie happen inside a windowless office or inside an FBI building. It is a simple yet dangerous game between a sharp but inexperienced FBI agent Eric O’Neal (Ryan Phillippe) and the malevolent, arrogant and creepy FBI spy Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper).
This movie is based on a true story and it pretty much appears to stick with real events as they happened. It might have helped me watch the movie, that I knew about Robert Hanssen, but I found out I did not really know all that much till I heard an excellent interview on NPR’s fresh air with Terry Gross, where she had both Eric O’Neill and the director Billy Ray on. If you have time and want to take a listen it is here.
Personally I absolutely loved the movie, and although some audience responses were like “It was a bit slow”, I have to say I found the interplay between the two principal characters absolutely fascinating, the earnest O’Neill and the flawed, greedy, duplicitous Hanssen.
It was also interesting to see how Hanssen tries to put O’Neill in place verbally by calling him a clerk and using other derogatory terms. There are a couple of scenes of them walking thru these long fluorescent lit corridors. Hanssen walks with O’Neill to his left, but as he walks he leaves O’Neill uncomfortably close to the wall, causing him to bump against things in the corridor. There are a number of scenes where there are such cues that tell the audience of this dynamic between the two of them. Maybe it was because of things like this that I did not find the movie slow. Perhaps I was playing more attention than usual.
Since a lot of the movie happens indoors between two people you would think it would be hard to create tension, but it is palpable between the two. We can it take it’s toll especially on O’Neill and his wife, as Hanssen injects himself in to their domestic life as well. The other thing I liked was the realism in the depiction of the FBI offices, none of that high tech gadgetry that comprises some of Chris Cooper is an amazing actor and I absolutely love watching him. He brings Hanssen to life and I could feel how well in to the character Cooper transformed himself. Cooper does an amazing job of bringing forth the creepiness of the man as he looks at O’Neals wife (Juliana played by Caroline Dhavernas) when he invites them to go for mass, his sexual deviancy (videotapes of him making love to his wife Bonnie (Kathleen Quinlan) end up with a friend, he also posted on the internet chat rooms explicit details about their sex life).
Chris Cooper is an amazing actor and I absolutely love watching him. He brings Hanssen to life and I could feel how well in to the character Cooper transformed himself. Cooper does an amazing job of bringing forth the creepiness of the man as he looks at O’Neals wife (Juliana played by Caroline Dhavernas) when he invites them to go for mass, his sexual deviancy (videotapes of him making love to his wife Bonnie (Kathleen Quinlan) end up with a friend, he also posted on the internet chat rooms explicit details about their sex life).
Ryan Phillippe was also good as Eric O’Neill, but clearly this is Cooper’s show. Laura Linney is great in her small role as the agent on the force tasked with catching Hanssen. She has a couple of great lines in the movie too.
What I also find very riveting here was, here is Hanssen a member of the religious right, Opus Dei, covers himself in the American flag, and is insidious in his sexual and political opinions and is also selling the country to its enemies. Something I did not know was that his wife Bonnie (equally deeply religious) found out about his selling secrets and sent him to confession instead.
To me this also says a lot about the frailty of human nature and how easy it is to let your ego (along with perceived slights to it) supercede every thing that religion teaches a person.
It is early days as they say but I would certainly put this movie on my top ten list for the year 2007.