BREACH– A Movie about Betrayal, Treason & Deceit. LA STORY Thriller Movie Review!


If your taste runs to the hyperactive stunts of a James Bond movie or the techo-gadgetry of the  a "Mission: Impossible" series, then this spy movie might not be your cup of tea.  The rollercoaster ride of Breach is not made up of explosions, car chases or shootouts but of a tense cat and mouse game between the hunter and the hunted.  And as rides go, this one is a well-crafted, well-acted taut psychological thriller.

Based on the true story of Robert Hanssen who was responsible for the greatest security breach in US history, the film recounts the two months leading up to Hanssen’s arrest as told through the eyes of the young would-be FBI agent who helped bring him down.  The consistently outstanding Chris Cooper plays the enigmatic and whip-smart Hanssen and Ryan Phillipe solidly delivers as Eric O’Neill–the upstart agent who is assigned to spy on the spy.

O’Neill–young, smart and ambitious is tasked to be the assistant of Hanssen and to report on his every move and conversation.  At first, he is put off by Hanssen’s brusque and fierce manner, but eventually he comes to admire and trust the senior agent.  He starts to feel caught between his growing loyalty to Hanssen, his ambition to become an FBI agent, his commitment to the job he was tasked to do, familial expectations and his inability to confide what’s really going on to his wife Juliana (Caroline Dhavernas). 

In the psychological interplay between O’Neill and Hanssen, the younger agent would seem to be hopelessly out of his league.  But Phillipe’s portrayal turns the naivete and inexperience to his own advantage as he struggles to do his part in keeping the investigation of Hanssen on track.  According to the real Eric O’Neill, the story is fairly faithful to his experience.  Of course, it is a Hollywood movie and some liberties were taken the dramatic climax never happened nor did the final confrontation.   But all in all, it’s an accurate and engrossing account of the how the FBI was able to catch the traitor within their own organization and bring him to justice.

Great supporting work by Laura Linney as a vinegary senior agent who recruits O’Neill, the always classy Dennis Haysbert and a surprisingly non-buffoonish Gary Cole as members of the team determined to catch Hanssen in the act and bring him down once and for all.   Director Billy Ray ( Shattered Glass) keeps the story moving along while at the same time allowing the characters to reveal and display their humanity.  Adam Mazer & William Rotko wrote the smart and coherent script. 

Breach may not have the karate chop kickass action of  Alias, but in lieu of stunt doubles and latex masks, the movie tells a compelling tale of ego and retribution, loyalty and betrayal.  Catch it in theaters starting February 16th.

Stella Louise

L.A. Story


Author: Stevie Wilson

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