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Breach
UKScreen Rating:

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Senior FBI agent Robert Hanssen (Cooper) is nearing retirement and he’s brought back to Washington to head up a small new department.
Bureau upstart Eric O’Neill (Phillippe) is promoted to be Hanssen’s assistant.
After decades in the FBI, Hanssen is cranky and supercilious. He trusts no-one – especially his bosses. O’Neill is an eager beaver, ready to please his bosses, to start climbing the ladder.
O’Neill is soon taken aside by his big boss Kate (Linney) who tells him they suspect that Hanssen of sexual indiscretions: the new department has been set up as a decoy, and O’Neill’s been hired to spy on the spy of spies.
As a genuinely warm relationship grows between the two men, O’Neill discovers that it’s not just the indiscretions that are under investigation: the Bureau believes Hanssen is selling secrets to the Russians and O’Neill has to catch him in the act.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This is a slow burner of a film – for a spy movie, there’s not that much spying going on, apart from a bit of rifling through a chest of drawers while the owner nips to the toilet.
The film’s largely about character, which makes it dependent on the abilities of Cooper and Phillippe. They both deliver intelligent, brooding performances.
Convincing us that the upstart can outsmart the old-timer takes some doing, but the plot never feels contrived.
Billy Ray’s direction successfully ratchets up the tension as the inevitable denouement approaches – all the more inevitable once you realise that this is actually based on a true story.
Back in 2001, this was plastered over the US media, but little spoken of here, which makes the story fresher, but perhaps it makes less of an impact as a result.
But as spy films go, this is to character what the Bourne Identity is to action.

Opens nationwide on 31st August 2007

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