Jorge’s take: One Star
“Breach” is a failure. It tries to follow the events that led to the arrest of Special Agent Robert Hanssen, but in its attempt to stick to the facts, it flops as a movie.
This film would have been better as a documentary. Instead, they generated buzz with trailers and advertisements as if it were another spy movie along the lines of “Spy Game,” “The Recruit,” or “The Bourne Identity.” That’s where it fails. It builds expectation and doesn’t deliver.
The movie lacks drama and character development, the stuff of a good movie. It matters very little to me whether the movie was faithful to the actual events if the screenplay turns out flat.
I eagerly awaited the release of “Breach” on DVD with the certainty that I would see Chris Cooper play the role of the guy you can’t trust, like in “The Bourne Identity.”
No, instead we are told he’s smarter than any other agent in the bureau. The key word is told because all I saw from Cooper’s character was bad judgement. That’s due to the fact that the story is one-sided, based on the account of Eric O’Neill, the intelligence officer working for Hanssen. I never got to see what made Hanssen so smart and capable of reaching the top of U.S. intelligence.
“Breach” focused on how Hanssen was captured. The wrong angle, in my opinion. A better focus would have followed the psychological tension of exposing America’s secrets for the sake of ego. It’s hard to understand how a smart guy would commit not just a bad chess move, but a life-threatening and unpatriotic transgression. Hanssen, according to the movie, is conscious of his wrongdoing, yet persists. This aspect would have been interesting to explore. That would require dramatizing, and perhaps, over interpreting, but that’s what makes a movie worth watching, it risks truth.
There’s something really wrong with “Breach” if I can find a news radio report on the case more exciting than the movie.
Mike’s take: One and a half Stars
The problem with “Breach” is that it is a true story about a young FBI agent who exposes the biggest case of espionage in the history of the government agency. The premise sounds promising, doesn’t it? It’s not.
“Breach” does nothing to enhance or go one-better than any spy film before it. We’ve been saturated with action-packed espionage films like “Spy Game,” the “Bourne” series and decades worth of James Bond. “Breach,” as the director comments on in the DVD extras, is a thorough re-creation of the real-life story of Eric O’Neill (played by Ryan Phillipe) who is given the assignment of uncovering the secret life of Robert Hanssen (played by Chris Cooper), an agent who was ultimately convicted of selling secrets to the Soviet Union.
O’Neill couldn’t even get a book deal to tell his story, so how a producer would think it could translate better on film is ridiculous. The documentary shows O’Neill behind the scenes as an advisor, making sure every scene and setting is accurate and follows the real life events.
Perhaps it is too close to what really happened because it is really not enjoyable to watch. It would be like shooting a movie about how a landmark bill becomes a law. Sure, it’s a worthwhile and notable achievement, but would you watch two hours of lobbyists chat up congressman, senators debate issues or aides gather up politicians for votes? I wouldn’t.
“Breach” documents, in a semi-dramatic fashion, a huge disgrace in the FBI and their success in uncovering it, but it worth the celluloid in telling it.