Breach (2007) 4/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 77.4
Genre: Thriller
Duration: 110 mins
Director: Billy Ray
Stars: Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Dennis Haysbert

The real life case of former FBI agent Robert Hanson who in the 1980’s and 90’s committed the most damaging acts of treason in American history on behalf of the Soviet Union. Breach is a pensively weighted thriller that offers a mature and unromantic angle on the subject of espionage. Delving equally into Hanson’s private and professional life as a means to laying the infrastructure of an explanation for his actions, the film offers a bleak examination of one disturbed man’s psyche and the toll it places on the young agent whom the bureau charges with reporting on his daily movements.

Shot with a predominance of greys, blacks, and dark blues, director Billy Ray seems to go out of his way not only to capture the bleakness of the script but to also set as realistic and subjective a tone as possible. The drama is moved forward in an eminently patient manner so that the actors are entrusted with more responsibility than most dramatic thrillers. And when two of those actors are Chris Cooper and Laura Linney, that’s a safe bet. As one of the most talented actors of the last thirty years, Cooper produces a darkly textured performance on which the entire film hangs. Everything from the pacing to the set design seems to feed off the meticulous paranoia which he breathes into his character. He gets to the core of this complex personality by striking a believable balance between Hanson’s overt religiousness, his deep ridden insecurities, his hypocrisy, and his bitter contempt for what he sees as a lack of recognition in his career. Ryan Phillippe gives yet another impressive turn as the inexperienced and conflicted agent sent to spy on his movements while Linney helps to round off the central cast with her usual timing, insight, and overall professionalism.

For an almost wholly dialogue driven film, Ray and Adam Mazer’s script is impressively lean. There’s little in the way of superfluous dialogue nor are there any token moments of action crowbarred into the story. At times, this integrity places too much of a drag on the film’s momentum but the acting always comes to the rescue. For this reason, Breach is not to be misinterpreted as a traditional spy thriller and those looking for as much will probably be disappointed. But for those looking for an affecting drama with the edge of espionage and Cold War machinations, then Breach makes for compelling viewing.

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