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  Publicity Stills of "Breach"
Courtesy of Lighthouse Pictures

Genre: Drama/Thriller
Director: Billy Ray
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Chris Cooper, Laura Linney, Dennis Haysbert, Kathleen Quinlan, Gary Cole, Caroline Dhavernas
RunTime: -
Released By: Lighthouse Pictures & Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: TBA
Official Website: www.breachmovie.net

Opening Day: 12 April 2007


In the United States, there is an elite group of men and women who is entrusted with the keys to our country. Agents in the Federal Bureau of Investigation are sworn not only to uphold the law, but to serve the United States with the same honor they would their own family.

This is the story of one man who betrayed us all.

Inspired by true events, Breach is a dramatic thriller set inside the halls of the Bureau that serves as gatekeeper of the nation’s most sensitive and volatile secrets. In February 2001, renowned FBI operative Robert Hanssen was found guilty of treason against America. Over a period of more than two decades, Hanssen systematically and deliberately sold his country’s key intelligence to the former Soviet Union. Today, Academy Award® winner CHRIS COOPER (American Beauty, Adaptation) stars as Hanssen, one of the most notorious spies in the history of our country.

RYAN PHILLIPPE (Crash, Flags of Our Fathers) joins Cooper, starring as Eric O’Neill, the young agent-in-training handpicked by the FBI to help draw Hanssen from his cover. When O’Neill is promoted out of his low-level surveillance job and into the headquarters of the FBI, his dream of becoming a full-fledged agent is on the verge of becoming a reality. Even more impressive, O’Neill is selected to work for renowned operative Hanssen within “information assurance,” a new division created to protect all classified FBI intelligence. His enthusiasm, however, quickly turns to anxiety as O’Neill is confronted with the true reason behind his unexpected promotion. Hanssen is the sole subject of a long-term, top-secret investigation; he is a suspected mole who has become extremely dangerous by the sheer global import of the information he is protecting. The Bureau asks O’Neill to use Hanssen’s growing trust of the apprentice to slowly draw the traitor out of deep cover. Now engaged in a lethal game of spy-versusspy, O’Neill finds himself fighting to bring down Hanssen before the treacherous double

Movie Review:

In “Breach”, director Billy Ray’s thematic follow-up to 2003’s “Shattered Glass”, works within its predecessor’s docudrama confines but steadily ratchets it up to a full-blown thriller well worth its dramatic salt. Despite the ending being splashed across the headlines and its case study still being referenced till this day as “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history”, the premise of a secrets being sold to foreign regimes continues to maintain an air of unreality that remains unnerving. This is especially so in a post-9/11 world that constantly expounds on the careful handling of counter-intelligence and sensitive information being touchstones of security in this brave new world.

Ray adheres to a disconcertingly effective cut and dry interpretation of true-life FBI man turned agent provocateur, Robert Hanssen’s (Chris Cooper) world. Unfolding underneath the cloudy grays of the country’s capital, the film works through the drones that walk the hallways of dull furnishings and tightly wound bureaucrats protecting their turf at every turn, remanding their responsibilities for somebody else to follow through on while feeding their own cynicisms through inadvertence. It’s mindful of not romanticising the shady, cloak-and-dagger world of spies or the circumventive thrill seeking of slipping one past the establishment but forms itself into a careful and observant record of Hanssen’s final months leading up to his arrest, all through the eyes of Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe), a surveillance specialist for the FBI.

With “Breach”, Ray now deals with deception on a much larger canvas. The stakes are set much higher in the psychological poker game between the men right in the heart of the scandal. Ambitious and competent, O’Neill is assigned to Hanssen as an assistant at a new division of the Bureau with the true intent to shadow and detail his boss’s every activity. They fabricate and withhold information from one another to conceal their true interests. But as the lies start to pile up and a burgeoning respect for each other hinders their defences, their responsibilities and intentions become hazier.

The conjecture used for its artistic merit was principally constructed from numerous biographical accounts of Hanssen and those close to him as well as O’Neill’s own input about his experience. The impetus of Hanssen’s actions as well as his perspective on his country’s intelligence failure are only eluded to and insinuated upon. The film does not inform and detail as a mere procedural but like every good film, puts its characters in the forefront instead of its plot. That’s not to say that the story isn’t up to par as there is not one wasted scene or lull in the tight script. Ray establishes a tone of continued discovery by using Phillippe’s character as a narrative linchpin in crafting an utterly fascinating portrayal of Hanssen through Chris Cooper’s superlative turn as the country’s most dangerous man.

There’s just so much to be said for Cooper’s performance here that could very well be his most complex and perplexingly nuanced role of his career. He pulls each and every one of his scenes off with a consummate understanding of a man racked with paranoia and personal sin despite the strong waves of pharisaical religiosity that he exudes, which O’Neill wisely uses to his advantage. This is one of the strongest performances of the year.

In a film teeming with politics unseen ever since the terrorist attacks in September 2001, mere months after Hanssen’s arrest, there’s a point being made by its director in his lingering shots of the hanging portraits of George W. Bush and John Ashcroft that parallels Hanssen’s growing disillusionment with his government’s complacency and lax disregard for the importance of intelligence in the administration’s hierarchy.

Movie Rating:

(Chris Cooper in the year’s best performance)

Review by Justin Deimen


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