(Author's Note: The Internet's best Advanced Screenings Guide is also its best kept secret, so I'll be promoting it weekly. About 40 cities are represented. Look for offers to see: 300, Amazing Grace, The Astronaut Farmer, Beyond the Gates, Black Snake Moan, Full of It, God Grew Tired of Us, Gray Matters, The Host, The Lives of Others, The Namesake, The Number 23, Premonition, Reno 911!: Miami, Starter for 10, Wild Hogs, and Zodiac.)
And now on to Breach, a promising matchup of material (the true story of double agent Robert Hanssen) and filmmaker (Billy Ray, who made Shattered Glass).
Hanssen (Chris Cooper), who had spent years overseas handling counterintelligence, returns to Washington to oversee the FBI's electronic information security in the months before his mandated retirement. Long suspicious of Hanssen, the agency assigns trainee Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe) to shadow Hanssen and provide daily reports. The rest, quite literally, is history.
The film is set up as more of a character drama than a thriller, which may be why I felt emotionally distant from what I was watching. I appreciated the attention to detail -- there's a large subplot devoted to the Catholic faith of the lead characters, and you can sense through the actors' gestures how Hanssen is the much more religious person. Cooper and Phillippe are both terrific, and the movie gives them a few opportunities to face off.
The events take place in January and February 2001 -- there's a scene where hall portraits of Bill Clinton and Janet Reno are replaced with George W. Bush and John Ashcroft -- and while 9/11 is never mentioned, you have to wonder if the Hanssen incident created another breach of sorts in the following months, between the FBI and the White House.