Review by Jack Foley
IN 2001, America’s security forces were rocked by the revelation that one of its senior FBI officials was, in fact, a traitor who’d been selling official secrets to the Russians for years.
Breach, director Billy Ray’s compelling follow-up to Shattered Glass, chronicles the way in which Robert Hanssen was flushed into the open and eventually brought to trial for treason.
It features another quietly mesmerising performance from Chris Cooper (as Hanssen), as well as a steely, determined turn from Ryan Phillippe as the agent assigned to catch him in the act.
Unlike more recent spy films such as Casino Royale and The Bourne Ultimatum it doesn’t rely on breathless action to keep viewers hooked, but rather slow burning tension and a simmering cat-and-mouse battle of wits between its two leads.
Cooper, of course, gets the biggest plaudits for the way in which he invests the potentially joyless Hanssen with so many layers, toying as much with viewers as he does with Phillippe’s Eric O’Neill. He is, at various times, a frustrated patriot, a cunning traitor and an unorthodox role model whose motivations appear conflicted at best.
But once the extent of his betrayal is fully realised, there’s no doubting the inherent evil behind the man.
Phillippe also does well to avoid appearing as though he’s a rabbit caught in some very bright headlights, rather giving as good as he gets in order to keep one step ahead of his nemesis while sorting out his own confusion and doubt in the process.
And there’s strong support, too, from the likes of Laura Linney and Dennis Haysbert, as two of O’Neill’s superiors, and Caroline Dhavernas as his concerned wife.
Just as he did with the similarly fact-based Shattered Glass, director Ray manages to keep viewers gripped despite the inevitability of proceedings, crafting a riveting character study that’s wrapped in deceit.
What’s more, the timing of his film couldn’t be more relevant given the questions still being posed to security officials today and the issues of paranoia and trust that it raises.
Running time: 110mins
UK DVD Release: March 31, 2008