(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)
Yet another 'true life" story comes to the screen. It seems like every other movie I review these days is ripped from the headlines. In the last few months I've seen, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Last King of Scotland, We are Marshall, Bobby, Marie Antoinette, and The Queen which are all biopics about real people, as well as The Good Shepherd, and Dreamgirls which are thinly veiled fictions. The newest film to join this pantheon is the story of Robert Hanssen (pictured below left), an FBI agent who sold information to the Russians for 20 years before he got caught. Much like Kim Philby the double agent from another generation, Hanssen was the FBI's Russian counterintelligence expert and participated in the efforts to find the double agent, i.e., himself. Eventually, at least partially due to the fact that he was openly spending large sums of money, the FBI began to suspect him. In the new movie, Breach, Hanssen is portrayed by Chris Cooper (below right). Ryan Phillippe plays a young FBI agent assigned to watch Cooper while pretending to be his assistant. Laura Linney plays the agent in charge of the investigation. In Breach, Cooper and Phillippe play a cat and mouse game. Phillippe doesn't know how much Cooper knows or suspects about the investigation. The tension at work is affecting the home life of both agents. Laura Linney's character doesn't have a home life or even a plant. Phillippe's wife (Caroline Dhavernas) is upset that he can't tell her what's happening at work and is spooked by the very religious Cooper and his wife (Kathleen Quinlan). He is a member of the infamous Opus Dei. Most of the events in the movie actually happened. For a rundown on what was real and what wasn'tclick here.
At the center of the action, is Chris Cooper as Robert Hanssen. He is one of the best and busiest when it comes to character parts (Syriana, Seabiscuit, Adaptation, and many more), but he shows here that he can carry a film. His foil is Ryan Phillippe, playing the young agent assigned to catch him in the act. He's perfect for the low key, stressed out FBI agent. Until recently, he was best known for being married to and then not married to Reese Witherspoon. Lately, he's been moving out of Reese's shadow, as well as out of her house. He had nice parts in Crash and Flags of Our Fathers. Backing them up in a smallish role is Laura Linney. She is always great but it is cool to see her make a three dimensional character out of a tiny part. She did an amazing job doing that in Mystic River where she played Sean Penn's very scary wife. She does it again here as the FBI agent dedicated to bringing Robert Hanssen down. Caroline Dhavernas, who is actually French-Canadian, is quite good as Phillippe's East German wife. I guess they call that acting.
Breach is the second film directed by writer, Billy Ray who wrote Shattered Glass (also directed) and Flightplan. Since this is a true story, there is no surprise ending. You know that Hanssen is going to be arrested and sent to jail. But even though you know how it is going to end, the mood of this film is very tense and it keeps you on the edge of your seat. Most of this is due to the great cast. It's worth going to Breach just to see Cooper and Linney in action.