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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Movie Review-Breach

Ryan Phillippe, left, plays Eric O’Neill, a young assistant who is charged with following his boss, Robert Hanssen, played by Chris Cooper, in the story of an American double agent.  Photo courtesy Universal Studios
Ryan Phillippe, left, plays Eric O’Neill, a young assistant who is charged with following his boss, Robert Hanssen, played by Chris Cooper, in the story of an American double agent. Photo courtesy Universal Studios

By Sara Pintilie/reporter

Ryan Phillippe, left, plays Eric O’Neill, a young assistant who is charged with following his boss, Robert Hanssen, played by Chris Cooper, in the story of an American double agent.  Photo courtesy Universal Studios
Ryan Phillippe, left, plays Eric O’Neill, a young assistant who is charged with following his boss, Robert Hanssen, played by Chris Cooper, in the story of an American double agent. Photo courtesy Universal Studios

Billy Ray’s Breach deals with the real story of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who by day was an upstanding Opus Dei Catholic agent but by night sold secrets to the Russians.

In 2001, Hanssen had given the Russians, and before them the Soviet Union, about 6,000 pages and 27 diskettes of sensitive information in exchange for cash and sometimes for diamonds. He was charged and sentenced to life without parole.

The film starts a few months before Hanssen’s arrest and tells the story through the eyes of naive Eric O’Neill (Cruel Intentions’ Ryan Phillippe), a go-getter vying for agent.

O’Neill gets recruited by Kate Burroughs (Exorcism of Emily Rose’sLaura Linney) to shadow Hanssen (American Beauty’s Chris Cooper). Apparently, there have been reports of lewd behavior on Hanssen’s part.

O’Neill does so reluctantly, but as the weeks pass and he gets to know Hanssen, the man who goes to Mass everyday, he starts to believe Burroughs has the wrong man.

Burroughs then tells O’Neill the whole truth of the biggest breach in U.S. history.

She tells him about the massive amount of government secrets Hanssen sold, the deaths he caused and even his love for strippers.

Phillippe does a good job of conveying O’Neill’s being torn between believing Burroughs or respecting and even admiring Hanssen.

Breach has a bit of a slow start, but once the film starts getting momentum, it captures the intensity using a good, solid story line and well-written dialogue.

This is Ray’s second directorial effort after 2003’s Shattered Glass, a movie definitely worth checking out, and he decides to go after bigger fish.

Instead of the fabricating Stephen Glass of the New Republic, Ray depicts, simply but effectively, the fall of the traitor Hanssen.

Phillippe holds his own as the lead and brings a certain human element to the story. Aside from him, all the other characters seem to be a little rigid, but that stiffness sets up a good contrast to O’Neill.

Though I did enjoy Phillippe, Cooper really shines in this film. He does an immaculate job playing the alter-egos of Hanssen.

Cooper portrays just enough eeriness in his unbridled good faith to keep the audience on edge.

Ray brilliantly toys with the audience making the audience hate Hanssen one minute and sympathize with the spy the next.

I even found myself feeling sorry for him in one scene.

Linney was a good choice for Burroughs, though I wish she had more screen time.

I always enjoy seeing Gary Cole (Office Space, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) and Dennis Haysbert (The Unit, 24), though Haysbert seems to always play the same character. But who am I to complain? If it works, it works.

Oddly, my favorite aspect of the whole film is the minimal amount of action.

Ray creates suspense without car crashes and explosions, just with the characters and the atmosphere.

My kind of suspense.

I give this movie four stars out of five. Breach is one of only a few worthwhile movies in theaters right now.

And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cooper’s name on the best actor bill for next year’s Oscars, although his role may be forgotten after the blockbuster hits scheduled this summer and next Christmas.

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