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The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Breach

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.


“Breach”
Rated PG-13
2007

Decades of unappreciated, unheeded intelligence work turn one dedicated FBI agent into a bitter, duplicitous traitor who burned his peers. A newbie ponders if the creep of secrecy into his own marriage is worth the cred of a career-making assignment. A commanding officer laments years of progress undone with the drop of a package.

Offices looked as drab as the dreams in director Billy Ray’s 2007 thriller “Breach.” But the film burrowed into the opportunity costs of one’s job and the perils of self-destructive tendencies just as bracingly as Ray’s plagiarism docudrama “Shattered Glass.”

The pulse of spy films so rarely comes from such meticulously detailed verbal and body-language suspense. Here, every conversation is a possible trap, inquiries feel like interrogations, responses and reactions could be lethal tells.

“Breach” is based on the actual arrest of Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper) — an intelligence analyst known for austere antagonism, sexual perversions, persistent paranoia, rigid Catholicism and, ultimately, betrayal of state secrets.

Feeling let down by God and country, Hanssen believes his ends justify the invasive menace of his means, and Cooper chillingly welcomes this malevolence.

For once, Ryan Phillippe’s dim vapidity works to his advantage. As the agent-in-training gathering info on Hanssen, his blank stares suggest the detachment of gaming Hanssen with naivete. And Laura Linney, as the operation’s handler, ably wanders into Joan Allen territory.

“Breach” thoughtfully considered the soul and sanity sacrificed for the sake of constant secrecy. Excepting a ludicrous Hollywoodized final scene, this thriller beautifully realized ugly truths.

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