Media Maven: “Breach” Movie Review

Media Maven: “Breach” Movie Review

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Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney

Can a movie that depicts an actual event where the outcome is known, succeed in captivating its audience? Yes, and "Breach" is a movie that does just that.

"Breach" is the telling of an authentic historical account of one of the most damaging espionage story in America’s history. At the center of this story is Robert Hanssen, portrayed brilliantly by Chris Cooper. Hanssen is the real life traitor who sent classified information to the Russians. Cooper has a chameleon like quality in letting the audience read his emotional hues changing as quickly as this story unfolds. At one extreme, he is aloof and stoic, and then he flips a switch to be a playful, adoring grandfather, committed husband and a genius in the world of high tech security information systems. Cooper does this so convincingly that we, as well as his assigned underling, Eric O’Neill, come to be confounded by the discovery of Hanssen’s double life.

Second to Cooper’s performance is that of Ryan Phillippe. Phillippe plays Eric O’Neill, Hanssen’s assistant. He is unaware of Hanssen’s covert actions and the purpose of his own role in working for Hanssen. Eric is a good Catholic boy who is of the straight and narrow path and has his sights set on being an FBI agent. He is committed to the code of the Bureau and will not let anything deter him.

Phillippes’ performance elicits the art of acting in its purest form. There is no doubt that Phillippe, as Eric, has become in awe of his mentor. There is no doubt that Eric is devoted to attaining the commitment and compromised personal life the FBI requires. And in this convincing portrayal it is all the more disconcerting when Eric discovers the truth about Hanssen. Heroes can fall pretty quickly off the pedestal. Traitors don’t deserve the pedestal and attention garnered to them.

Actual footage of John Ashcraft announcing the apprehension of Hanssen drapes this movie in a real time sense of American diplomacy, with its international security at the forefront. Accurate on site scenes filmed in Washington D.C. serves to enhance its authenticity. This movie is intelligent, without graphic violence. The dialogue is clear and exempt of expletives in every other sentence like some movies have the tendency to do.

Added to the fine script and well-crafted retelling of this high profile patriot betrayal, is the interesting actual human twist made by the real life protagonist, Eric O’Neill. Also, a nod should go to Laura Linney for her outstanding performance. She played Eric’s boss and helped spearhead the conviction of the most famous man who chose to breach his country’s loyalty.