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Breach (2007)

Universal

Cast: Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney.

Rating: PG-13

Run time: 111 mins

Genre: Drama

Verdict: Bland (see rating system)

He’s so dull he forces you to look at the set design, so I ask: is there a more wooden actor in movies today than Ryan Phillippe?

His dull performance in this based-on-fact espionage yarn comes hard on the heels of his equally uninspiring contribution to Clint Eastwood’s Flags Of Our Fathers. At least in that one there were lots of explosions to keep us awake.

Not so in Breach.

While Chris Cooper puts in a great performance as real-life FBI double agent Robert Hanssen, who betrayed the U.S. to the Soviets and Russians, pretty boy Phillippe plods vacantly along in his role as Eric O’Neill, the young FBI surveillance specialist who helped bring Hanssen to justice in 2001.

Phillippe’s performance aside, Cooper also deserved a tighter, more suspenseful script. By concentrating on the last few weeks of the U.S. intelligence operation to trap Hanssen, the movie skimps over the 15 years he sold America’s top secret intelligence and ratted out several Soviet agents secretly working for the U.S. Some were executed by the Soviets. Countless American agents were also compromised by Hanssen’s activities.

Hanssen, who pleaded guilty to spying in order to avoid the death penalty, is serving a life sentence without parole. He was the mole U.S. intelligence was looking for over many years, but was so highly respected he was just about the last suspect on anyone’s list.

Cooper’s layered performance shows how the churchgoing family man, apparently devoted to his country, managed to fool so many. While Hanssen received more than $1 million in cash and diamonds from the Soviets, his real motivation may have been frustration with the limitations of his job and being passed over for promotion.

A disappointing effort, though the Dateline documentary on Hanssen’s double life that‘s included here IS well worth seeing.

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