Movie Review: Breach

BreachThumbby Brad Nelson
I don’t know when my love affair with Chris Cooper started. It might have been his portrayal of July Johnson in the Lonesome Dove series. But I think it started with his portrayal of the stern father in the excellent (and relatively unknown) October Sky (a terrific and inspiring film for kids of all ages…just in case you’re looking for a family-friendly movie).

But what cemented that love for the general persona of Cooper (he indeed has some range as an actor, but he’s always Chris Cooper to me) was his performance as the FBI intelligence agent in Breach. This is one of the best spy movies of the last twenty years.

Although there is very little of the Mission Impossible-type gadgetry and gimmickry, it’s very interesting nonetheless. It features people, not machines. I love films with gadgets and gimmickry, especially the older James Bond films. But, again, such things work as a spice to the main story. But a diet of pure A-1 Sauce isn’t very appetizing. You need the meat and potatoes underneath or all that you’ll end up with is a heartless, cold, technology-based film such as Mission Impossible.

Breach is about the spies. It’s about the people and the personalities involved in this singular craft. And this particular movie is based on a true story, although that hardly matters because I very much doubt that much, if any, of the dialogue was exactly as spoken years ago. But maybe it was. You never know. But I don’t expect these “based on” movies to be true except in the very broad outline.

Breach is intelligent and almost completely devoid of idiocy and movie clichés. That, in my book, is no small achievement. It is smart, well acted, well paced, and just about well everythinged. I give this movie 3-3/4 Palm Pilots out of 5. In a plot-driven movie such as this, not much more can be said without giving something vital away.

Chris Cooper is fantastic in this, as is Ryan “can-I-buy-another-consonant” Phillippe, the young FBI spook who has been inserted into Cooper’s office because they’re looking for a leak. And both Phillippe and the screenwriters should be given special mention for giving us a young male character who isn’t the picture of politically correct wussdom, isn’t a total wuss, and isn’t spouting totally wuss lines. What a relief.

I’ve almost come to expect that any youthful “hero” type of character in a movie these days is going to be barely distinguishable from a junior high schooler as he smart-alecs his way through the world and gives off the general vibe of a sophomore. Not so with Ryan Phillippe and his role. For once, they show a plausible young man struggling in his career and one who doesn’t act like some farcical GQ character or Jackass (the movie) juvenile.

The only weak spot in the film is the rather soupy father/son scene that Eric has with his father. But I’m picking nits because this, of all the lines and scenes, is the only even slight imperfection as far as I’m concerned. So instead of damning with faint praise, I’m instead praising with faint criticism. That is all I could come up with. I think you’ll all enjoy this one. • (1089 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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6 Responses to Movie Review: Breach

  1. Kurt NY says:

    Supposedly a true story, but the thing not mentioned in the movie is that, by the time the Ryan Phillippe character was sicced onto Hansen in real life, they already knew he was the mole (supposedly a million dollar bribe elicited that information from a Russian spy). And the question to me was, how could such a profoundly religious Catholic betray everything in which he supposedly believed? He sold out to the communists yet his hatred for that ideology seems sincere. Attending mass every day and a member of Opus Dei, he filmed his wife without her knowledge and routinely shared that with a friend, while also striking up a friendship of questionable character with a stripper.

    I guess for him it was all about ego, something Cooper tried to portray. But I never got the sense from the movie it had the answer to the questions of Hansen’s character.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      And the question to me was, how could such a profoundly religious Catholic betray everything in which he supposedly believed? He sold out to the communists yet his hatred for that ideology seems sincere.

      Kurt, I don’t know the real story. But I just assumed from the way they presented the Chris Cooper character as a religious zealot that the intent of the filmmakers was to just take a shot at religion. Same old, same old. But maybe this guy was really that screwed up.

      And you’re right, they never did come to a proper conclusion about Cooper’s character. I couldn’t agree more. But the movie sort of just came to an end when they nabbed him and you figure the rest was just left to the imagination as they rode off into the sunset, so to speak.

      • Kurt NY says:

        Interesting story. Robert Hanssen seems an interesting character. Look him up any where on the net. Strange story. And he hurt us about as bad as any spy could before we finally caught him. I just found the tidbit that we simply bribed a Russian to give us his specific file a unique approach.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Oh, and since we’re on the subject of Chris Cooper, let me post this capsule review here and hope it doesn’t get too lost:

    Review: Married Life

    Easily the best movie I’ve seen all year (2009). It’s a Neil Simonish plot-driven romance/drama with some wonderful and funny sardonic moments. At first glance, Chris Cooper doesn’t seem at all right for this kind of role. Early on I kept imagining Michael Caine or some other more romantic actor in his place and figured I was accepting him only because I’ve become such a big Chris Cooper fan. Opposite Pierce Brosnan (who is terrific in this too), he seemed a strange casting choice to me at first. But it worked. This is a terrific casting job by somebody, from top to bottom.

    Because it is so plot-driven, there’s not a lot I can say about it without giving anything away. But this is definitely an adult film. It had adult themes, and I don’t mean nudity. There was a serious exploration of some very fine emotional points, although surely few of us will ever find ourselves in a similar situation. Or will we? 3-3/4 phony business trips out of 5. This is a movie I highly recommend. It is engaging from start to finish.

    • Kurt NY says:

      Brad, just how many movies do you watch and how can you remember so many in such detail? I love movies, but outside of a few lines from Airplane, Blazing Saddles, The Godfather, A Few Good Men, The American President, Young Frankenstein, etc I can’t remember a durned thing about them. If I ever tried to write movie reviews off the top of my head like you’re doing, I’d collapse midway through the first one trying to remember anything at all.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Kurt, I have a few of these reviews stored up over the years. Some I had posted before at Facebook and some elsewhere.

        I love movies and love doing movie reviews. While the world around us goes crazy (and it is), one can always slink back into a cozy chair in front of the silver screen to a time when mankind put his imagination and desire for fantasy into his art form, not his politics (or, now, even into science).

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