Monday, February 19, 2007

Not A Movie Review ”Breach

I managed to see the Billy Ray directed “Breach” this weekend. It stars the always amazing Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney and others.

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 Hollywood’s depiction of the FBI. The FBI indeed was a laggard when it came to Information technology compared to it’s brethren in the intelligence business.

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.

23 comments:

Aditi said...

me first..=)
sounds like a great movie.. who knows when i will get around to seeing it here though

Aditi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
listmaker said...

Sanjay, I always appreciate your movie reviews.

deepsat said...

sounds like a nice movie!! thanks for the review sanjay!!

;-))

Asha said...

YAY!! Made it here without freezing the screen y=this time!:)

Movie sounds interesting,but I haven't been to any movie in a long time.First AC broke ,replaced it and this weekend the water heater is gone kaput!!!Waiting for the guys to come and install the new one!..sigh..

Lotus Reads said...

Loved reading about "Breach" Sanjay, thanks so much for sharing your observations with us. I saw the preview for this movie and made a mental note to go see it because of Chris Cooper. I believe you when you say this is Cooper's show - even in the short preview up get a sense that this is a performance you wouldn't want to miss!

It was another movieless weekend for our family, but I intend changing that next weekend, I really do need my movie fix! :)

Maggie said...

I heard that interview on NPR podcast. The movie sounds fascinating and I was really impressed with the attention to detail they went to in order to make it accurate. I will be renting it as soon as it comes on DVD.

Diana said...

Very cool. Sounds right up my alley. (Also, I've never heard a Teri Gross interview I didn't love.)

patches said...

I noticed Chris Cooper the first time when I saw American Beauty....riveting. Hollywood relies too much on special effects these days, there was a time when acting was considered more important. Sigh.

Sanjay said...

@Aditi..Hopefully you get to see it soon.

@Listmaker.. thank you so much.

@Deepsat.. you are much welcome.

@Asha.. yay to you too. Ouch at your a/c and water heater troubles. We had to relace our water heater a few weeks back too. It was giving up anyways also, there was a squirrel trapped in the vent above the heater. When they took it out, the stench was err not good shall we say. :)

Sanjay said...

@Lotus, you are most welcome and thank you for the kind words. :)
Yes you are right about how you viewed the preview for this movie. It is indeed his movie.
Yay @ getting your movie fix the coming weekend, am happy for ya. :)

@Maggie, you won't be disappointed with the movie at all, I am sure.

@Diana, You know you are so right about that statement about Terry Gross :)

@Patches.. you are right about everything you said.
I actually remember Chris Cooper from when he was in a movie called lone star.
It's directed by John Sayles, its pretty good too. Catch it if you can on DVD.

gr said...

It was interesting to hear an interview wit the real characters behind this movie. It was a pretty tense time....

Donviti said...

I'm reading "The Company" as we speak it is a 900 page thriller. I am almost done and can't wait to see a few of these spy movies.

If you liked that movie you would thoroughly enjoy this book. If you have the time to read it that is...

Sanjay said...

@Gr. yep indeed it was.

@Donviti. Am gonna write that book down, will get to it some day.

starry nights said...

Thanks for the review Sanjay. have to add it to my list of movies to see.And the list gets longer and longer.

beenzzz said...

Hi Sanjay. This sounds like a really interesting movie. I saw the ad for it a little while back and I was curious about it. I will definitely pay attention to Chris Cooper and I really like Ryan Phillipe as well. I'm sure his acting has matured a little bit now that he is older. Great review!!!

Carrie said...

This sounds really intriguing. I haven't been to the movies in a long time but I think I am going to go see this on the weekend.

Sai said...

Nice Review! The movie sounds interesting. Since K loves this genre....might end up seeing this movie :D

Id it is said...

Thanks. I'll want to see this one.

moegirl said...

I want to see this movie. I'm also a fan of Chris Cooper. The Robert Hansen story is fascinating- kind of reminds me of that recent preacher scandal- Ted Hagard- publicly one thing- privately another.

Orchid said...

Thanks for the review..will watch. I like Ryan Philippe..poor guy he so needs a good movie or two under his belt.

Fuzzylogic said...

Sounds like an interesting movie.I like spy thrillers and I think I will my hands on this one when I can.Thanks for the review Sanjay!Regarding the "Opus Dei" I remember reading about it from Dan Brown's "Da Vinci code"

chandni said...

must watch!! sounds good....