Chris Cooper as Robert Hanssen
Ryan Phillippe as Eric O’Neill
Laura Linney as Kate Burroughs
Caroline Dhavernas as Juliana O’Neill
Gary Cole as Rich Garces
Dennis Haysbert as Dan Plesac
Kathleen Quinlan as Bonnie Hanssen
Bruce Davison as John O’Neill
Jonathan Watton as Geddes
Tom Barnett as Jim Olsen
Jonathan Potts as D.I.A. Suit
David Huband as Photographer
Catherine Burdon as Agent Nece
Scott Gibson as Agent Sherin
Courtenay J. Stevens as Agent Loper
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Writer/Director Billy Ray and Editor Jeffrey Ford
Alternate Scenes with Optional Commentary by Writer/Director Billy Ray and Editor Jeffrey Ford
Breaching the Truth
Anatomy of a Character Brought to You by Volkswagen
“The Mole” as Originally Aired on Dateline 03/05/01
Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Billy Ray and Former FBI Operative Eric O’Neill
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 1 Hour 51 Minutes
The following is from the DVD cover:
“Inspired by the incredible true story of the greatest security breach in U.S. intelligence history, ‘Breach’ is a spellbinding thriller starring Academy Award winner Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Academy Award nominee Laura Linney and Dennis Haysbert. Eric O’Neill (Phillippe) is assigned to work with renowned operative Robert Hanssen (Cooper), the sole subject of a long-term, top-secret investigation. Determined to draw this suspected double-agent out of deep cover, O’Neill finds himself in a lethal game of spy vs. spy, where nothing is as it seems.”
“Breach” is rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language.
The main appeal of “Breach” for me was the fact that it was based on a true story. I didn’t know much about the Robert Hanssen story, but I was very much intrigued by it. As the story unfolded, I kept thinking, “Man, I can’t believe this is all true!” It was pretty amazing stuff filled with intrigue, mystery, drama, and sex. Then the movie got to a scene where Hanssen pulls a gun on O’Neill. I started thinking, “This really happened? That’s a bit hard to believe.” Well, sure enough, it never happened. In fact, a lot of what happened in “Breach” was either a fabrication or something done “in the spirit of true events”. Learning that the creators and Eric O’Neill himself (who consulted on the story) were willing to manipulate the facts of the story put the entire thing in doubt for me. In short, I ended up being disappointed by it.
On the positive side, Chris Cooper delivers an impressive performance as Robert Hanssen. He’s intense, moody, and sympathetic all at the same time. You could believe the guy was a patriot and a devout Catholic or a traitor and sexual deviant with equal conviction. His relationship with Ryan Phillippe as Eric O’Neill is equally complex. One minute he’s berating O’Neill, the next he’s acting as a father figure to him. It’s quite a challenge for an actor to make such a complex character so convincing, but Cooper more than rises to the occasion. Also noteworthy is Laura Linney as Kate Burroughs. She doesn’t have much screentime, but she leaves quite an impression no matter what scene she’s in.
As a dramatic spy film and a work of fiction, “Breach” is a great film. It is well worth checking out. But if you’re looking for a factual recounting of the Robert Hanssen security breach, you’re probably better off reading a book.
There’s a pretty good selection of bonus features here. There are two commentaries, the best of which is with Writer/Director Billy Ray and Former FBI Operative Eric O’Neill, the man the story is about. O’Neill separates fact from fiction and tells his own personal version of what happened with Hanssen. You’ll also find “Breaching the Truth”, an 11 minute “making of” video. They discuss shooting in Canada and on location in Washington DC. Also included are interviews with most of the cast and crew. “Anatomy of a Character” delves a bit deeper into Chris Cooper’s performance as Robert Hanssen. He discusses bringing the character to life with very little information about the man himself. It is 7 minutes long. The standard Alternate Scenes are also included with Optional Commentary by Writer/Director Billy Ray and Editor Jeffrey Ford. Rounding out the bonus features is the NBC Dateline segment “The Mole” which aired in 2001. It is 20 minutes long and gives about the only completely factual account of the spy sting you’ll find on the DVD. It’s a great follow up to the film.