Breach (2007) (PG-13)




















This review contains some SPOILERS
Ever since seeing "Shattered Glass" which I was immensely impressed with, I wanted to see everything that the director had done. As is turns out, there's only one other movie the director has yet to direct: "Breach". Before watching "Breach" I assumed that, like the debut movie, it would be better to not know anything about it. I read no reviews, looked it up on no websites, and didn't even read the back cover...I was committed. It was, then, kind of a disappointment when you know how the movie's going to end in the first ten seconds.
"Breach" tells the story of a man who turns to espionage and trades the United States's secrets to the Russians—arguably, the worst mole in American history.
Eric O'Neill is a FBI novice, someone who isn't even an agent yet—a clerk. He is assigned by far ups on the ladder to tail a man named Robert Hanssen, who supposedly is posting inappropriate material on the internet. We know from the beginning that Hanssen is the bad guy but it takes Eric the first hour of the movie to work this out.
What the movie should have done was create enough doubt that would throw us off of Hanssen; instead of screaming in our heads to Eric that he is being blind. Anyone would have done the same thing that Eric did, but since the viewer already knows the answer we assume that our lead man is stupid. Thinking poorly of the lead is never a good way to start a movie.
So Eric begins to work out who Hanssen is and we start to realize that he may be in over his head.
That's basically it...the plot is fairly flat, the movie this should have been was "Fair Game".
Ryan Philippe plays Eric and he really resembles Hayden Christensen from "Shattered Glass". He's not that great in this role but there's something intrinsically fascinating about the way he carries himself, although that wasn't enough to save his performance.
But those were all my complaints—that and the fact that I thought the screenplay needed to have a faster paced dialogue. But okay, you want to go for dramatics—I can concede that.
What I did like about the movie were the small things, the subtleties that may slip into the background. It showed me how the director and the actors were grounded in the roles. Hanssen is a religious man (more than one meaning here), he's perceptive, dangerously intelligent, and not to be trifled with. He says "screw the rules" and he does whatever he likes. He's very much into power maneuvers and he doesn't like to be stepped on. Bureaucracy, he does not like.
His counterpart is Eric who is more timid, easily flustered, and nervous. But we hear that he's cocky near the beginning of the film, yet we see none of that in Philippe. I liked his take on the character more than the description of the words.
The best way to describe the relationship between these two is in their walks. When they walk around the FBI, Hanssen is sure of himself. There's some retiling in the room and he just walks over the rough spots while Eric outskirts them. Hanssen expects people to move for him and he keeps running Eric into walls or boxes or water fountains. It's actually quite brilliant and they're just walking.
Mychael Danna, who recently won an Oscar for scoring "Life of Pi" has an incredible score here, one of the better features of the movie.
There are times when the movie soars, with a simplistic enough approach that has you aching for more.
Other times the movie sags and weighs itself down with an unbearable need for something a little more interesting.
Chris Cooper plays Hanssen and it is a role that really fits him, although I still think that his best work was done in "American Beauty".
Laura Linney rounds out the major actors and I feel that she was good but could have been better.
But you know what? Even with all the cliches and the bad times and the overly dramatic scenes—I quite enjoyed "Breach".
The things that work are the lines of dialogue that pop up again and make you realize that you judged a character the wrong way. Techniques are put into use like the repetition of one line whose meaning keeps changing every time you hear it.
"Breach" doesn't feel like a typical Hollywood movie based on a true story. It obviously takes liberties but it seems to acknowledge that fact. The viewer realizes that it's a dramatization, which is clever and effective. It makes you want to know what really happened which is, of course, classified.


Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

Note: I was going to give this 3 stars; but I felt that it had enough ambition and promise to elevate it a little more.

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