Breach (2007)

(In theaters, February 2007) Espionage films tend to go, James-Bond like, for big explosions and tense gun-play as a way to show off spy trade-craft. Reality, of course, is entirely different, and Breach at least tries to remain grounded in some sort of verisimilitude as it tells the true story of Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent who kept selling secrets to “the other side” for nearly two decades before his arrest in 2001. As we discover through the eyes of our protagonist, a young agent tasked to his office, Hanssen is a study in contradictions: an overly pious career agent who dabbles in amateur pornography and gun worship, Hanssen thinks of himself as superior to his colleagues and sees in his spying just another way to get back at a system that ignores his talents. Chris Cooper is fascinating in a role that’s plays a fine line between assurance and arrogance, and Ryan Phillippe at least keeps up with him throughout the entire film. Though there are a few odd contrivances designed to pump up the drama, Breach remains restrained in its depiction of a real-life story –indeed, even playing down juicy aspects of the true story such as the amateur pornography and the link to Opus Dei. It all amount to a film that is more intellectually thrilling than the average spy film, even though there’s nary an explosion in sight.

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