By Fred Topel | Image property of Universal Pictures.
Universal must have a thing for true spy stories. The good news is, Breach is a lot shorter than The Good Shepherd. It feels like a taut spy thriller, the intellectual answer to The Bourne Identity.
Movie Review: Breach
Aspiring FBI agent Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe) is assigned to shadow Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper). Posing as his clerk, he is initially tasked to uncover his pornographic indulgences, but it soon becomes clear that Hanssen is a much more serious target. Actually, the first shot of the film is John Ashcroft announcing that they've indicted Hanssen as a traitor.
It's really the Chris Cooper showcase. He looks so crusty and boring in his suit with his permanent scowl, but right away proves to be sharp and cool. He skips the bureaucratic forms and can tell when you've been messing with his stuff. He was probably just guessing but it was convincing. Even his religious talk comes across as noble and funny, with anti-pants suits comments that could have come from Stephen Colbert. He's so calm and smooth, you respect him even though you're waiting to see his comeuppance.
The operation against Hanssen is exciting in the best espionage way. It's not big action. It's not even little action. It's stalling for time, racing to finish tasks and creating distractions. It's like Alias, only they don't repeat everything twice.
There's good spy banter, not as vague as it usually is. O'Neill and his superiors talk pretty directly. O'Neill and Hanssen speak directly, even when they're lying. Their lies are about specific family and religious issues.
I don't understand the subtleties of this kind of work enough to critique the accuracy or effectiveness of the story, and I'm no history buff so the significance of it only means as much as the two hours I'm involved in the story. It held my interest and provided some entertainment, if not a mind-blowing revelation or emotional punch.