At its core, Breach is a compelling spy-thriller that provides plenty of tension and high drama. But it's the other stuff that really separates it from the chafe. The character complexities and interactions written by Ray, Adam Mazer and William Rotko are some of the best you'll ever see, and the performances turned in by Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillipe and Laura Linney are absolutely top notch.
The film covers the last few months before Hanssen was eventually nabbed red-handed in a Virginia park. Hand-picked to watch Hanssen's every move is the ambitious Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillipe), a young FBI clerk who sees the assignment as a fast track means of making Agent within the FBI. Bright, intelligent and even a bit cocksure, O'Neill quickly suspects something more than the trafficking of pornography as the Bureau officially informed him - by the man he's been charged with shadowing. When informed of the depth and danger of the actual investigation, cracks surface in O'Neill's confidence and his self-assuredness falters as he begins to question whether he's the right man for the job. But he knows any external display of weakness in front of Hanssen could result in disaster. This is a very complex role for Phillipe. Probably one of his toughest to date. But he rises to the challenge with a great performance. We didn't get a chance to see this from him in last year's Flags of Our Fathers or even from 2005's Crash for that matter. Welcome to "The Bigs" Ryan.
But standing in the room like the 500-pound gorilla, and overshadowing all others in the cast, is Chris Cooper as the treacherous FBI operative Robert Hanssen. Now called the most notorious spy in United States history, Hanssen is believed to have been responsible for the deaths of at least 50 operatives, both Russian and American. That would qualify as a mass murderer in anyone's book, but Cooper doesn't depict Hanssen as a cold-blooded killer. His Hanssen is a brilliantly complex character that hides behind many layers and contradictions. To buy into Hanssen, we must believe that he is intelligent, quirky, a bit pompous and quite capable of being a loving husband and devoted father. But we see via Cooper that he also terrifies anyone in his presence. Part of his cover as a secret agent comes from his chameleon-like ability to lead a double life. And Cooper channels this effect flawlessly. Though not as physically menacing as the 6'3" real-life Hanssen, we nonetheless get the feeling that he happily chews up his detractors and spits them in the face of anyone who might get in the way. It's a true joy to watch Cooper and Phillipe on the screen together. Even though we know the outcome of the investigation, the chemistry generated by these two makes the takedown a mesmerizing thing to watch.
Not to be outdone though is two-time Oscar nominee Laura Linney as Special Agent Kate Burroughs, O'Neill's boss and confidante in the operation. As always, she's believable as a smart, tough woman, but she also shows a bit of vulnerability as we learn she's basically a lonely workaholic married to the Bureau with no personal life.
With Shattered Glass and now Breach, Billy Ray has landed a solid one-two punch backed by powerful stories of deception and disloyalty. Both films make us think about who we can truly trust and what happens when those we think we know betray that trust. In Breach, Ray paid very close attention to the details of the real story and only strayed in a few areas for dramatic effect. He even shot the film's final scene in the actual suburban park where Hanssen was arrested. The result is a chilling dose of realism that drives home what a bad man this guy truly was.
Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; director's commentary.
* Commentaries - feature-length Audio Commentary with director Billy Ray and consultant Eric O'Neill
* Deleted & Extended Scenes - 12 clips totalling over 18 minutes, presented with optional audio commentary by Ray and editor Jeffrey Ford
* Featurettes -
o Breaching the Truth (10:52)
o Anatomy of a Character (6:50)
o The Mole (19:21)
Number of discs: - 1- Keepcase Packaging
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