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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

To See Or Not To See

Known Outcome Doesn't Dampen Thriller Breach
by Jan Stetter

Breach, a movie that depicts an actual event where the outcome is known, succeeds in captivating its audience. It is the tale of an authentic historical account of one of the most damaging espionage stories 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. One moment he is aloof and stoic; the next, a playful, adoring grandfather as well as a committed husband and a genius in the world of high-tech security information systems. Cooper does this so convincingly that his assigned underling, Eric O’Neill, is confounded by the discovery of Hanssen’s double life.

Second to Chris Cooper’s performance is that of Ryan Phillippe. Philippe plays Eric O’Neill, Hanssen’s assistant. Unaware of Hanssen’s covert actions and the purpose of his own role in working for Hanssen, Eric is a good Catholic boy 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.

Phillippe’s performance elicits the art of acting in its purest form. There is no doubt that Philippe, as O’Neill, is in awe of his mentor. There is no doubt that the character 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 Hanson.

Actual footage of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft 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. serve to enhance its accuracy.

This movie is intelligent and without graphic violence. The dialog is clear and nearly absent of expletives.

Adding to the fine script and well-crafted retelling of a highest 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 O’Neill’s boss, who helped spearhead the conviction of the most famous man who chose to breach his country’s loyalty.