The Films of Billy Ray
Breach (November 5/09)
Despite the inherently thrillerish nature of its setup, Breach ultimately comes off as a slow-paced character study that benefits substantially from Chris Cooper's downright astounding performance - as the actor's consistently spellbinding work proves instrumental at sustaining the viewer's interest even through the film's more overtly deliberate stretches. Based on true events, the movie follows FBI computer specialist Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe) as he reluctantly agrees to become Robert Hanssen's (Cooper) right-hand man in an effort at producing hard evidence against the suspected spy. It's clear right off the bat that filmmaker Billy Ray is going for an atmosphere of almost aggressive authenticity, as the movie primarily boasts the feel of an officially-sanctioned docudrama - which consequently (and effectively) drains the narrative of its anticipated thrills on an all-too-frequent basis. There's little doubt, however, that the palpable chemistry between O'Neill and Hanssen generally compensates for the film's less-than-enthralling vibe, and though it's impossible to deny the effectiveness of Phillippe's affecting turn, Cooper's fascinating, unexpectedly layered work ensures that his character remains the focus of the viewer's admittedly indifferent attention virtually from start to finish. The proliferation of such positive attributes inevitably prevents Breach from coming off as just a glorified movie-of-the-week, yet it's hard not to feel a little disappointment at the film's relative failure given the undeniably electrifying subject matter.