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Feb 21, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Breach

In the Hall of Fame set aside for character actors, Chris Cooper etched himself out his own wing a long time ago, with great performances in everything from Adaptation to American Beauty to A Time to Kill. Likewise, in the Hall of Fame for grumpy looking pusses, Cooper is a first-ballot entrant. Cooper's talents (and sourpuss) are on full display in Breach, the latest in a long line of D.C.-based espionage thrillers. In this "based on a true story" film about the "greatest security breach in U.S. history," Cooper plays Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent who sold secrets to the Russians (and others) for much of his 25-year career.

Cooper shines - all the more difficult in a film where he's allowed few emotions. He plays Hanssen as a bitter office worker (and proud patriot) who has sold his secrets (and his soul) all for the greater good of Uncle Sam's security policies. Having seen firsthand the fallacies of the internal security workings of the FBI, Hanssen sets out to prove the many ways that the bureau and country would benefit had they listened to him more.

The man who plays a large part in his takedown is Eric O'Neill, played solidly by Ryan Phillippe, who is proving to be a much better actor than I would have anticipated a decade ago (Cruel Intentions and I Know What You Did Last Summer come to mind...), and who has shown great judgement in picking his projects (recent releases include Flags of Our Fathers and Crash). Rounding out the superior cast is Laura Linney, Dennis Haysbert, Kathleen Quinlan, Bruce Davison and Gary Cole.

Redemption for bad early career choices (or bad work, I suppose) is also in the cards for director Billy Ray. Ray's early resume includes writing credits for the doomed Bruce Willis soft-core film Color of Night and that other lava flick Volcano. However, 2003 brought on his directorial debut, Shattered Glass, another story of lying liars and the people who bring them down. Glass was another true story, based on the fabrication journalist Stephen Glass, a writer for The New Republic. Though you'd never think it, the story of a failed writer and the editor who exposed him was one of the best and most interesting films of 2003, featuring a career-best performance by Anakin Skywalker himself, Hayden Christiansen (as Glass).

Though Breach inevitably suffers from it's "spy movie" familiarity, Ray brings the same intensity to the table, all the while eschewing the standard "thriller" cliches and crutches (there's nary a gun to be seen). Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the marketing - if you didn't know better, you'd think the film was made up of chase scenes, following, wiretapping, etc. Don't let it fool you.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"Darn tootin'"

2 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Breach"

NFL Adam said...

I'm going to have to give this a look, though I'm a touch behind in movie viewing. Something that won't improve once baseball season starts.

Fletch said...

Well, you have plenty of time to catch up - we're still in the midst of the crappy season for movies, with "Zodiac" and "300" being the only must-see films for the next few weeks/months.