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Breach


By John Barry | Posted 2/14/2007

Billy Ray's spy thriller opens with a clip of John Ashcroft fronting a 2001 press conference announcing the capture of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, one of the most notorious moles in modern history. Ray then flashes back several months to follow the final stages in the FBI's attempt to build a case against a man who, by 2001, had spent two decades leaking valuable intelligence to the Russians. A characteristically intense Chris Cooper resurrects Hanssen's mystique with a forceful, multilayered performance as a cryptic central figure. Unfortunately, much of the movie is taken up by the much less compelling story of Eric O'Neill (a frustratingly bland Ryan Phillippe), the novice FBI agent who helped nab Hanssen. As he did in Shattered Glass, Ray displays an infectious fascination with the workings of a profession that few of us understand. But Ray doesn't do much to answer the obvious question: Why, after five years, should we care about how the FBI managed to build its case against a Cold War-era spy? Post-Sept. 11 America could certainly use a movie that takes a new look at the inner world, and the tragic dysfunctions, of the U.S. intelligence community, but Breach, despite Cooper's excellent performance, doesn't do that.

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