From the director of 'Shattered Glass', 'Breach' brings us a tamer and less dramatic look at the inner workings of intelligence operations than is usually the case, presenting a slick take on human observation and the levels of deception that are possible when trust is on your side.
Based on a true story, the movie takes us inside one of the biggest violations of FBI security, as the attempt to apprehend a mole is stepped up with a massive spy operation.
Robert Hanssen (Cooper) is considered by most to be an exemplary FBI agent. So why are some senior members of the Bureau beginning to doubt his motives so much that they want a junior member of staff, Eric O'Neill (Phillippe), to spy on him?
There are allegations of trading intelligence and Internet sex scandals but O'Neill finds Hanssen to be a straight-laced, prayerful man, who seems to care very deeply for his family. So either O'Neill's job is going to be the hardest one in the world or he's barking up the wrong tree from day one.
Chris Cooper offers a convincing portrayal of a man who has done so much wrong that he almost believes himself to be in the right. He plays cold and robotic at work equally as well as he plays the sensitive family man at home, making for a character that is difficult to read but always entertaining.
Phillippe, too, is on form here as the eager newcomer who wants to make the grade to agent and is prepared to do whatever it takes to get there, sacrificing his personal relationships and being as conniving as he can be in the pursuit of the truth, although at times still looking the innocent rookie.
The supporting cast of Laura Linney, Kathleen Quinlan and Caroline Dhavernas, and the storylines they carry, give greater weight to the story that is being told and really hammer home the massive conflict between the total secrecy involved in working for the FBI and an individual's ability to develop and maintain any kind of real and meaningful relationships in a climate that instructs you to 'trust nobody'.
If you're looking for a high-energy, nail-biting spy movie then 'Breach' is not that. But as the story of the motivation to betray it really delivers.