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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Ryan Phillippe
Chris Cooper
Dennis Haysbert
Laura Linney
Gary Cole.
Directors
Billy Ray.
Screenwriters
Adam Mazer
William Rotko.
Running Time
110 minutes

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Breach
The spy who stayed out in the cold


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Plot
In 2001, FBI trainee Eric O’Neill (Ryan Phillippe) starts work under the Bureau’s computer wizard Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), with secret orders to check on his internet habits. He’s soon told Hanssen is the target of an espionage investigation.


Review
Breach
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Director Billy Ray has a thing about real-life duplicitous characters - Shattered Glass, his first film, was about Stephen Glass, the journalist who passed off wholly fictional articles as well-researched news pieces. Breach follows up by getting unnervingly close to Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), who lived (at least) a triple life.
 
A grimly right-wing, joylessly Catholic family man (of the Opus Dei variety) with christiansagainstclinton.com in his internet cache and all manner of old-fashioned prejudices (against women who wear trouser-suits and powder-applying “faggot photographers”), he was also a sleazy lech who traded home-made porn videos and creepily invaded the personal space of his underlings.
 
Furthermore, as it turned out, he was a career traitor who funnelled government secrets to the Russians well after the fall of the USSR (which he blamed on their being “godless”), and got away with it for as long as he did because he was so clever he was once put in charge of the task force which was supposed to catch the mole.
 
Following The Good Shepherd and The Lives Of Others, Breach chronicles another spy anecdote from the Cold War - though the immediate pre-9/11 setting makes it seem more an afterthought than sweeping history.
 
There’s good work from Laura Linney as the senior investigator and Kathleen Quinlan as Hanssen’s odd wife, but it’s basically a two-character piece. As in White Heat or The Fast And The Furious, a fresh-faced undercover agent has to become a better deceiver (indeed, a traitor to his boss and mentor) to bring down a complicated bad guy. Ryan Phillippe, an easy actor to underestimate, holds the story together, looking more and more uneasy as he gets deeper into the case and realises the personal cost. But the film will be remembered for giving Chris Cooper another top-flight role: softly-spoken, like a venomous Garrison Keillor, and understandably paranoid, Cooper’s Hanssen is a portrait etched in evil. The irony is that the good guy Hanssen pretends to be seems even nastier than the traitor he actually is.


Verdict
Cold and cerebral, with simmering suspense rather than outright excitement, this is a feel-the-quality-of-the-acting movie. It can’t answer all sorts of questions, but does take a scary mug shot of a subtle monster.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Breach
Empire Star Rating

Tense Worthy True Story.

Breach is a tense worthy true story that won't be for everyone's taste and there is no action, simply very slow moving. But if people like this sort of thing, it's without doubt worth checking out. The pefomances from Chris Cooper, Laura Linney and Ryan Philippe were excellent, they are there to grab your attention. It's a very dull and cold setting with a chilling story ready to be told, one to see. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 17:39, 10 December 2009 | Report This Post


Slow-paced but good...

The script could have been better and so could the pace but when the excitement comes it sure is cracking to watch. The performances are outstanding: Phillipe was watchable, Haysbert was a great surprise and Linney, as usual, was fantastic...but this is, without a doubt, Cooper's movie- he just completely blew me away and his performance is definetaly oscar material. Nobody else could have played his part better-without him this movie would just be an okay-conspiracy thriller that hardly anybody... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by !xHoTRoDx! at 14:52, 16 January 2009 | Report This Post


Slow-paced but good...

The script could have been better and so could the pace but when the excitement comes it sure is cracking to watch. The performances are outstanding: Phillipe was watchable, Haysbert was a great surprise and Linney, as usual, was fantastic...but this is, without a doubt, Cooper's movie- he just completely blew me away and his performance is definetaly oscar material. Nobody else could have played his part better-without him this movie would just be an okay-conspiracy thriller that hardly anybody... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by !xHoTRoDx! at 14:52, 16 January 2009 | Report This Post


Slow-paced but good...

The script could have been better and so could the pace but when the excitement comes it sure is cracking to watch. The performances are outstanding: Phillipe was watchable, Haysbert was a great surprise and Linney, as usual, was fantastic...but this is, without a doubt, Cooper's movie- he just completely blew me away and his performance is definetaly oscar material. Nobody else could have played his part better-without him this movie would just be an okay-conspiracy thriller that hardly anybody... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by !xHoTRoDx! at 14:51, 16 January 2009 | Report This Post


QUALITY MOVIE-MAKING

A cracking film this one. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Quality performances on show from all involved - Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillipe, Dennis Haysbert especially...... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chrisdagnall at 16:50, 02 December 2008 | Report This Post


Very entertaining thriller

Very interesting, solid 3 star thriller but elevated due to the absolutely magnificent performance put in by Chris Cooper ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Workshed at 17:01, 31 August 2008 | Report This Post


Very entertaining thriller

Very interesting, solid 3 star thriller but elevated due to the absolutely magnificent performance put in by Chris Cooper ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Workshed at 17:01, 31 August 2008 | Report This Post


Whats this with no answers?

Although it didn't spell Chris Coopers motivations out to you, I thought the story gave more than enough insight into his character to give you a greater understanding of his motives. I certainly never left thinking 'why was he like that or why did he do that?" A great little film, that hasn't been 'jazzed up'. It all felt very low key, and very real, as well as a little scary knowing how much real damage was actually caused by this man, Great little film, and superb acting throughout... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by discodave101 at 15:52, 31 October 2007 | Report This Post


Enigmatic

Gripping thriller with an excellent performance from the dependable Chris Cooper, but never properly explaining his motivation. Good film based on an amazing true story. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by FlexDream at 23:03, 26 September 2007 | Report This Post


High Quality Thriller

Highly engaging thriller starring the excellent Chris Cooper, rises above the norm thanks to high production values, 'true story' background and some real tense moments. In todays bland market of cheap thrills and low brow action movies this stands out, check it out while you still can it will not dissapoint. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rougier at 19:34, 16 September 2007 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

This isn't going to be to everyone's taste because it's a slow, methodical film. Think of it as a modern day version of "All the President's Men". But that's OK. The case against Robert Hanssen was built up over a long period of time, with careful planning, and that comes across in the film. Much has been said about Cooper's excellent, conflicted performance but Philippe seems to be getting better and better with each film, and Linney is solidly excellent as always.   In these days of... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by RJNeb2 at 09:48, 09 September 2007 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

He did Shattered Glass?! Well then I may have to go see this, I loved that ... More

Posted by jackinov at 20:44, 08 September 2007 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Not bad, good peformance by Chris Cooper, he seems to make his fair share of political films dosen't he, also been in Syriana and the upcoming The Kingdom. It was a bit slow and I did lose interest at times but it wasn't bad. ... More

Posted by raven_girl at 19:19, 07 September 2007 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Can we....report movie maniac or what? For the last time, if we wanted Total Film's opinion, they have a website! ... More

Posted by Driver 8 at 21:33, 06 September 2007 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Very good film IMO, Chris Cooper was excellent as Hanssen and also thought Ryan Phillipe put in a very decent performace. It most likely won't be for everyone but I am very glad I went along to see it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by FortWilliamLoyal at 16:08, 06 September 2007 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Good film but not nearly as good as Shattered Glass from the same writer-director. Chris Cooper was fantastic... ... More

Posted by Charliebois at 19:56, 05 September 2007 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

It was a slower-paced film than the trailer would have you believe but it was very good. Not sure I'd watch it again but Cooper's performance was excellent/ ... More

Posted by Wilbert at 21:32, 04 September 2007 | Report This Post


RE:

Good film - just seen it today. Did anyone else notice what seemed to be a boom mike coming into shot about 15 mins into film when Hanssen walks into his office with Phillippe's characters report on a better computer system (or whatever it was). Watch out for it above Hanssen's head if you get the chance.   Graham ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Graham Pickersgill at 16:27, 04 September 2007 | Report This Post


Based on a real-life scandal that rocked America in 2001, Ray’s film is a fascinating exploration of the methodical steps taken to coax Hanssen out into the open. But it’s also a study of betrayal, Cooper’s treason mirrored on a personal level by the way Phillippe gains his trust and courts his friendship even as he plots his downfall. Knowing the outcome isn’t the liability that one might expect. Slow-burning and sombre, Breach won’t be for everyone. But it̵... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 19:15, 02 September 2007 | Report This Post


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