out of Five
Running time: 100
Enjoyable, slow-burning thriller with an intelligent script and strong performances from its two leads.
What's it all about?
Based on the true story of the greatest security breach in U.S. history, Breach stars Ryan Phillippe as trainee FBI agent Eric O'Neill, who's assigned to spy on his new boss, long-serving agent Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), because the FBI believes he's been passing secrets to the Russians. As O'Neill spends time with the deeply religious Hanssen, he develops a liking and respect for him, only to find out that he may not be everything he seems.
Meanwhile, O'Neill has to negotiate secret meetings with his handler (Laura Linney), while struggling with the fact that he must keep his job a secret from his neglected wife (Caroline Dhavernas).
Breach is director/co-writer Billy Ray's eagerly awaited follow-up to Shattered Glass (also based on a true story) and while it's not quite on the level of his previous film, it's still an enjoyable, slow-burning thriller. Ray eschews Hollywood-style theatrics (this is a thriller without chase scenes or punch-ups) for a slower, more deliberate approach that allows the audience to get under the skin of the characters.
Chris Cooper is terrific, as always, delivering a captivating performance that perfectly illustrates Hanssen's contradictions and complexities. Phillippe is equally good as the ambitious but perhaps slightly naive O'Neill and there's strong support from Laura Linney (who gets most of the best lines) and Caroline Dhavernas.
The film's biggest problem is that it suffers from Apollo 13 Syndrome, in that you pretty much know how it's going to end so it's stripped of any suspense it might otherwise have had. In addition, the ending feels so anti-climactic that you almost wish they'd Hollywooded it up a bit.
This is an impressively directed, sharply written thriller with strong performances from Phillippe and Cooper, even if it never quite delivers the emotional sucker-punch you think it's going to.