Breach

Went to see ‘Breach’ last night. To be honest, before I heard that Chris Cooper was in it, I wasn’t awfully interested. However, it’s a fascinating film. Based on a true (and recent) story, Cooper plays FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who’s being secretly investigated for alleged spying and unamerican activities. Ryan Philippe plays his ‘assistant’ Eric O’Neil, who’s really a last-ditch plant tasked with finally trapping this slippery smart traitor. All fine so far, if not hugely original, except….. Hanssen is a complicated, deeply religious man, and Cooper gives an extraordinary performance (cough.. Oscar…cough) unpeeling the layers of this damaged, dangerous and rather creepy soul. Suffering from battered self-confidence from what we guess was a destructive and possibly abusive childhood, Hanssen endeavours to make himself ‘more’ by dealing with the KGB, and in his personal life, involving his unwitting wife in perverse voyeurism. He’s a man who likes to compartmentalise things, and Philippe as O’Neil has the difficult task of gaining Hanssen’s trust so he can insinuate himself into each of those tightly closed compartments.

The film follows the FBI as they build up a case against Hanssen, but it’s less about the mechanics of this, than about the fascinating Hanssen and his relationship with O’Neil. Hanssen needs a friend, but can he trust O’Neil. O’Neil needs to advance his career and wants to bring down Hanssen, but ends up unexpectedly respecting and admiring the man.

Fascinating and engrossing. The plot is intriguing, but it’s a film to see for its characterisation, and in the main, Cooper’s incredible performance.

After the film, writer and director Billy Ray, and actors Chris Cooper and Ryan Philippe appeared on stage for a Q&A. Which was nice…

Day off today – and boy do I need it. My eyes have disappeared and I have a stoop. By noon, I might be 72.

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