Monday, February 4, 2008


Breach pretty much exactly met my expectations going in, in that it delivered a solid if unspectacular drama about the FBI highlighted by some quality acting on the part of Chris Cooper. Three cheers for watered down expectations, I guess.

The film, based on a true story, is about the single biggest breach of our intelligence agencies in the history of the nation. Ryan Philippe stars as a young fed hoping to make agent who is ordered to spy on one of the top agents in the Bureau, played by Cooper, under the guise of being his new page. He eventually learns just how bad Cooper is, and how he’s given up the identities of at least 50 field agents and informants, 3 of which had since been executed by Russia, and finds that it’s no small task spying on one of the greatest intelligence agents in the country. What drives the film is Cooper’s performance, and the work of Laura Linney, who is Philippe’s liaison to the investigation. Both of them do suitably impressive work, as one would expect from them.

The film, however, suffers from simply being too generic. I have no idea how much of the film is actual fact and how much was just glamorized for the film itself (as a general guideline, though, I always assume it’s a lot more of the latter than the former), but the film has an abundance of cliches dragging it down. There’s Philippe’s wife (played by Caroline Dhavernas) who is given the thankless task of disliking his new job and who spends all of her scenes being nonunderstanding and combative (seriously, does the wife ever support her husband in movies like this?). There’s the required scene where he has to swipe vital information from Cooper’s personal effects while he’s out, only for him to return too soon requiring a mad scramble to get everything back together again. There’s the ending, which doesn’t end in a big shootout, but which wouldn’t have been any less familiar territory if it had. Some work was needed on the script level to stamp out these problems.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly a watchable film, and there are indeed parts that are quite entertaining. It’s just not one of the best of its genre, and that’s a little sad given the great potential of its source material. It’s worth a viewing, at least, but don’t be expecting to want to return to it again and again.

Rating: ** ½

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