Breach is directed by Billy Ray, who also wrote Flightplan and directed his only other movie, Shattered Glass, also based on real events. Based on the true story of the greatest security breach in US History, it traces the events leading to the arrest of decorated and respected FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who is one heck of a mole within the organization, committing treason of the highest order by betraying the country and selling secrets to the Soviet Union.
FBI newbie Eric O'Neill (Ryan Philippe) gets assigned as an undercover within his own organization, in order to bring down what could possibly be the most difficult inside man to nab, because of his numerous years of field experience, and expertise. Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper) on the surface appears to be stoic, no nonsense, and a God fearing man, but underneath the facade lies something more sinister, and Eric is assigned to obtain proof and evidence in order to charge Hanssen, rather than based on the evidence already gathered which would only garner him a few years imprisonment.
It's spy versus spy, mole infiltration and family misunderstandings revisited again, as Eric has to deal with convincing his boss Hanssen that he is trustworthy, and to maintain that trustworthiness with his wife, who has absolutely no idea how sensitive her husband's involvement in the investigations is, and therefore a sore point conflicting with his mission.
For those into spy thrillers, you'll need some patience as the movie takes its time to set up the kill. However, it's a pleasure just watching it develop every step of the way, despite knowing its outcome, and that there is no big bang exaggerated set action piece. It's an intellectual mindfield for Eric to tread, on one hand feeling extremely beholden and admiring Hanssen, yet on the other, having to snoop everything and report back to his bosses, for that hazy "for the good of everyone" mission objective.
Chris Cooper gave a superb performance as the charismatic Robert Hanssen, while fielding deep dark undertones within his character. I liked the front bit where he mentors his "clerk" Eric, with full ego and cockiness of a veteran, explaining the bit about turf protection, office politics within the Bureau and inter-agency rivalry. Ryan Philippe managed to hold his own against Cooper, and was believable as the man tasked to bring down a veteran - you can feel his adrenaline rush when assigned the mission, yet sympathize with his apprehensions each step of the way. Laura Linney unfortunately played only a bit role as the direct supervisor for Eric's mission, and provided at times some light hearted moments as she exasperates over Eric's many decisions and pointed questions.
There's a degree of added authenticity with the real Eric O'Neill serving as special consultant to the movie. So if spy thrillers are your cup of tea, then Breach will definitely not disappoint. Make time for this!