“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.
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.