Breach

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Breach
Review (7/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

Breach is the movie based on the true story of FBI agent Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), a man who spent most of his 25-year career secretly selling classified information to the Soviet Union and later Russia. His actions resulted in, among other things, the murder of two KGB double agents and, although the movie does not touch on this, the suspected sale of stolen software that the Russians later passed on to al Queda. His actions and betrayal are considered the biggest security breach in the history of the United States. Hanssen now sits in a maximum security prison in Colorado, where he will stay for the rest of his life. Although President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft pushed for a death sentence for Robert Hanssen, he was able to barter an agreement whereby he cooperated with authorities to avoid the death penalty.

Breach tells us the story of how Robert Hanssen was caught. The main character in the movie is actually a bright young agent named Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillipe), an up-and-comer who was pulled off the street from his anti-terrorism duties and put behind a desk to monitor Hanssen and his fondness for internet porn. It was not long before O'Neill became confused. What he saw in Hanssen was a dedicated family man who attended church every day and loved his country. Hanssen was tough but fair. He was bitter but devoted. O'Neill did not understand why he would be wasting his time spying on this apparent upstanding citizen who was thought to have an affinity for naked people. Enter his reporting officer, Special Agent Kate Burroughs (Laura Linney), who explained the entire situation to Eric. She explained how Hanssen would secretly tape his lovemaking sessions with his wife and give the tapes to his friends. Okay - anti-terrorism or spying on a guy who tapes his wife. Then came the bombshell. She explained how Robert Hanssen was betraying his country. In the end, O'Neill was able to infiltrate Hanssen's world and gather enough information, almost at the expense of his own marriage, to help the FBI apprehend the double-agent.

Although Breach is often a slow-moving and at times a rather mundane movie, it is still a movie that is well worth the price of admission. It features excellent performances from both Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe and it tells us one of the most shocking stories in the history of the FBI. It's just too bad that you don't always get that feeling from the movie. There are times I felt that Hanssen was nothing more than some sick freak who was taping his wife, selling a few pieces of paper to the Russians and hiding behind his family life and the church. Yeah, the movie points out that he got a couple of KGB agents executed but isn't all fair in the world of the spy game? Perhaps if the movie would have mentioned al Queda at some point we might have felt the pain of this guy's actions. Or at least if we would have seen him as more of a threat than he appeared to be in the movie. There are points in Breach where you almost like Robert Hannsen. He really doesn't seem like such a bad guy at times, although that is another issue with this movie - we rarely are let into the private world of Robert Hanssen. Most of what we see is from the point of outsiders. I guess in many ways, that makes sense.

Nevertheless, Breach is still quite an interesting and at times tense spy movie. To be honest, I enjoyed this movie much more than The Good Shepherd. It has moments of intensity. There are a couple of outstanding performances. There is a constant uneasiness whenever Robert Hanssen is anywhere on the screen. You almost feel sorry for the guy but you have to realize what he did was simply inexcusable and he probably got off easy spending the rest of his life in jail. Mind you, he only spends one hour a day outside his cell so it's not like he's at one of those country club prisons. This guy is doing hard time and it is hard time that is well deserved.

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