Directed By: Billy Ray.
Written By: Adam Mazer and William Rotko.
Running Time: 110 Minutes.
Rated: PG-13 (for violence, sexual content and language).
“Do you know what destroyed the Soviet Union? We didn’t. They were more determined… More devious. It was Godlessness. Atheism killed the Soviet Union.”
- Paraphrase of FBI Agent (Russian Spy) Robert Hansen to FBI Agent Eric O’Neill
CoverUps.com Rating: 3 UFOs
CoverUps.com Staff Writer
(July 25, 2007) – The film Breach is based on the true story of the one of America’s greatest intelligence breaches in history and the ensuing plot to catch the mole, Robert Hanssen, a top-level FBI bureaucrat who was secretly amassing information and selling it to the Soviets for cash and jewels for a long time. In fact, Hanssen continued to do so long after the Soviet collapse for a period of about 15 years before finally being caught in 2001.
Some have described his crimes as the greatest ever intelligence breach in U.S. history, compromising billions of dollars of assets, the names of double agents working for the U.S. inside Russia, not to mention secret “continuity plans” in the event of a nuclear strike against the U.S. Several of the double agents he revealed to the soviets were even executed.
So we know what happened. But, how could it happen and what type of person could betray his country like that? Would the profile match the crime? How could he cover it up for so long?
Robert Hanssen (Cooper) is portrayed as a complex, devout Catholic who is beyond reproach in every area of his public life. However, in secret, he is a sexual deviant and given to filming he and his wife in the sack together for other people’s amusement.
The one grudge that he apparently holds is that of under-appreciation by his country. He complains that the FBI is a “gun culture” and you have to be a “shooter” to advance within its ranks.
As the film opens we quickly learn the FBI is onto him.
They long suspected he is a mole, though the movie picks this up in midstream and does not tell how they came to suspect him. Nonetheless, the idea is to catch him red-handed selling secrets to the Soviets so as to threaten him with the death penalty for treason in the hope he would reveal all the intelligence he has compromised or perhaps the identities of the people he was dealing with in Russia.
To do so requires a spy of their own: Eric O’Neill (Philippe).
O’Neill is a youthful, new guy given the detail of eavesdropping on Hanssen’s every move by pretending to be his assistant. Ostensibly, his task is to observe him for signs of sexual deviance – like using his computer at work to beat it and stuff. However, he is in the dark as to what they really are looking for – catching him in the act of espionage. Eventually his supervisor (Linney) lets him in on the full scope of the case so he knows the real deal about Hanssen.
O’Neill is able to obtain his PDA and at this point Hanssen’s world begins to crumble. He suspects his car is bugged and other things. He wants to call off his drops to the Russians, which would foil the FBI’s attempts to nab him in the act of spying (even though they long suspected what he had done for years, they had no hard evidence).
Suspecting something is odd, Hansen is about to quit his role as a spy for the Russians. O’Neill, in an emotional encounter, plays psychological games with him claiming that he is not only paranoid but unimportant. This was the trigger that gets Hanssen to make his final drop. At this drop, he gets nailed.
The movie is excellently acted by both Ryan Philippe as Agent O’Neill and Chris Cooper as the complex Robert Hanssen. Laura Linney plays that all concerned female part she plays so well in almost every movie she appears in. She just has that great serious female concerned face and it comes in handy in Breach.
Breach is really a character study to some extent. What makes it great is how Cooper presented Hanssen’s character as complicated and nuanced. He made his bizarre world of contradictions seem to make sense. There was a side to Hanssen on some level that loved serving his country yet he wanted his country to suffer because his country didn’t appreciate his brilliance.
That Cooper can convey this in his character is brilliant work on his part and he could well come down with an Oscar for it and deservedly so.
Philippe was serious and on the mark. The young Ex of celebrity Reese Witherspoon proves more than capable of handling a serious role. I was waiting for a reincarnation of Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne, but luckily never got it. A fine job on Philippe’s part.
Breach is not fun, but compelling.
It is somewhat slow paced but necessarily so. The moments of suspense were done well enough and were all about timing: would they get back from a meeting too fast before the FBI could disassemble his car and put it back together again (I am still confused why they had to rip the car to its bare axle to plant one bug and put it back together); Could O’Neill rearrange Hanssen’s desk before he got back to the office.
Breach is about a man and his love for his country that was so strong he had to hurt it by giving away its secrets. For that, he paid the ultimate price but was finally recognized by his country – unfortunately it was for treason.