Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Breach

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Breach

Article excerpt

BREACH Directed by Billy Ray (Universal Pictures, 2007)

Most thrillers today rely on comic book villains to generate excitement, frightening audiences with drooling psychopaths or chilling cannibals. But director Billy Ray's gritty tale of real-life spy and traitor Robert Philip Hanssen introduces us to a menacing presence that seems to embody political theorist Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil," offering a buttoned-down vision of villainy in the form of the mild-mannered guy next door.

As middle-aged family man, zealous parishioner, and hardworking FBI agent Hanssen, Chris Cooper turns in a meticulous and riveting performance, offering just enough hints of the venom seething beneath the surface of this frustrated mid-level bureaucrat to let us believe he might have sold $1.4 million of state secrets to the Soviet Union and delivered dozens of agents to their executioners.

When the FBI finally becomes aware of Hans serfs monstrous betrayal, his superiors send raw recruit Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe) to spy on the spymaster, instructing the young agent to watch for signs of sexual misconduct, not treason, in his new boss. …

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