Portrayal of an American Traitor Betrayed by a Superficial Script; I, Spy: Chris Cooper in Breach

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Breach (12A) Verdict: Chris Cooper's fine performance unbalancesthriller **

Death Sentence (18) Verdict: Kevin Bacon can't save another Death Wish rip-off*

BREACH is up-and-coming director Billy Ray's second foray into real-lifestories with flawed heroes. His first, and better of the two, was ShatteredGlass, which starred Hayden Christensen as a reporter who made up stories.

Still, Breach is an intelligent film and contains one great performance. ChrisCooper is not afraid to play unpleasant characters, and in Lone Star he provedthat he has the ability to carry the lead in a motion picture.

Here, he plays Robert Hanssen, who was in real life the most successful Russianspy to penetrate American Intelligence.

The central misjudgment in Breach is that Ray doesn't make Hanssen the focus ofthis thriller. He's a fascinating character, but the film can't be bothered tounravel his motivation and contradictions.

He seems to have been an ardent American patriot, Catholic and family man, yetspied for the Russians for over 15 years, betrayed Portrayal of an countrymento death at the hands of atheists and took a perverse pleasure in pornographyand rough sex.

Despite Cooper's masterful acting, the screenplay never gets to the roots ofthose paradoxes. The film hints that his motivation may have been intellectualvanityor simply resentment that the bureau wouldn't treat him with more respect. Butit stretches plausibility to suggest that he did it all out of bruised pride orfor intellectual kicks.

Perhaps in search of a youthful audience, the movie prefers to duck the problemof Hanssen, and show us instead the process of uncovering his duplicity. …