Friday 31 August 2007
Director Billy Ray is attracted to portraits of men with something to hide. In his first movie, Shattered Glass, he picked apart a New Republic journalist's paper trail of bogus news stories. In Breach he addresses another real-life case involving the rather more serious deception of selling government secrets to the Russians. Ryan Phillippe plays Eric O'Neill, an ambitious FBI trainee assigned to lead a covert investigation of the agency's top Soviet analyst Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), a cantankerous right-wing Catholic who's suspected of dabbling in internet porn. When O'Neill finds himself succumbing to a respect for his quarry he is then told the real reason for his brief: Hanssen is an unscrupulous spy who has been trading with Moscow for years. A sombre game of cat-and-mouse ensues, and what it lacks in genuine tension it amply compensates in the understated performances of the two leads: Cooper projects the hawkish, haunted look of a career double-dealer superbly, and Phillippe is a surprise package as a rookie investigator who gets in over his head. Laura Linney is the bonus as O'Neill's FBI controller, a woman so committed to the job she doesn't have a partner "or a cat".
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