DVD Review: Breach
Release Date: June 12, 2007
Distributor: Universal Studios
· Billy Ray
· Chris Cooper
· Ryan Phillippe
· Laura Linney
· Caroline Dhavernas
· IMDb: Breach
by R.J. Carter
Published: June 12, 2007
In early 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was well aware it had a problem -- an inside man, who had been supplying the Soviets with national secrets since the days of the Cold War, resulting in the execution of some well-placed KGB moles, and incalculable damage to the security of the United States.
The spy was Robert Hanssen (played here to the hilt by Chris Cooper), and we catch up to him in "Breach" just as the FBI has reassigned him to the Office of Data Assurance -- a do-nothing office with an impressive sounding title. Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe) has been assigned ostensibly to assist Hanssen, however Special Agent Kate Burroughs (Laura Linney) has made it clear to O'Neill that he is to report to her all of Hanssen's activities.
O'Neill is briefed that the reason for this is that Hanssen has been using government systems to surf for pornography. However, as O'Neill gets to know his overly-brusque new boss, nothing could appear further from the truth. Hanssen is portrayed as conservative, patriotic, and a devout Catholic in his personal and professional life. O'Neill is convinced the FBI doesn't have a case against Hanssen, and demands to see the evidence. When he's officially read in, the real truth is devastating: Hanssen, a twenty-five year Bureau man, has been feeding information to the Russians. What's more, he's been very successful at not getting caught -- he hasn't even done it for the money, limiting his ill-gotten income to just around $100,000, knowing that any excessive shows of money would arouse suspicion.
With editorial input from the real-life O'Neill, director Billy Ray has crafted suspenseful scenes, usually involving O'Neill working against impossible deadlines with his boss out, or trying to keep his boss away from other evidence sweeps. His safest fallback is playing on his boss's religious side: when he nearly gets caught in his boss's office rifling through papers, O'Neill drops to his knees before the displayed crucifix and prays, the position he is in when Hanssen sees him. But it's a dangerous highwire act O'Neill is pulling, because Hanssen proves to be a near-infallible human lie detector, and notes the most imperceptible of disturbances of his belongings.
The Peace of God. Hanssen takes O'Neill to morning Mass and
a Catholic bookstore where he discusses the importance of his
religion in his life. (L-R: Cooper, Phillippe)
Hanssen is presented from start to finish as a sympathetic character. When apprehended by Dean Plesac (played by The Unit's Dennis Haysbert), the characters theorize that perhaps Hanssen did what he did to underline the gaping security gaps at the Bureau. Certainly throughout the film he was seen as being largely ignored when making suggestions for improved computer security. (In one deleted scene, Hanssen delivers printouts of letters to Rich Garces (Gary Cole), which Hanssen had hacked off his hard drive, just to prove that the current security was useless.) Hanssen is also seen arguing for cooperation between the FBI and the CIA, something that wouldn't exist for another ten months after his ultimate capture. Even after his capture, O'Neill is shown as having a high degree of respect for Hanssen, which perhaps influenced his decision to leave the FBI just as much as the stress his job was having on his home life, with his wife Juliana (Caroline Dhavernas).
Look for a brief appearance from Bruce Davison as O'Neill's father, as well as a nicely done performance by Kathleen Quinlan as Hanssen's devoted wife, Bonnie.
Bonus features on this disc includes a commentary track with writer/director Billy Ray and former FBI operative Eric O'Neill, as well as sixteen deleted scenes and two alternative scenes -- approximately eighteen extra minutes in total.
In "Breaching the Truth", O'Neill and Ray are joined by Cooper, Phillippe, and the rest of the cast to talk up the making of the film in this eleven minute documentary. Much of this involved Phillippe and Cooper utilizing O'Neill's on-set presence to interrogate him for more and more information about himself and Hanssen in order to play their roles most convincingly. Dhavernas even did the same with O'Neill's wife Juliana, and wore her wedding ring in the film -- you don't get more precision detailed than that. Ray, O'Neill and Cooper then talk about the process of becoming Robert Hanssen in the seven minute "Anatomy of a Character", which is then followed up with the nineteen minute segment, "The Mole", which originally aired on Dateline on March 5, 2001.
Previews on this disc include "Because I Said So", "Dead Silence", "Talk to Me", and "Hot Fuzz".