Critics Consensus

Powered by Chris Cooper's masterful performance, Breach is a tense and engaging portrayal of the FBI's infamous turncoat.



Total Count: 177


Audience Score

User Ratings: 377,347
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Movie Info

When young Eric O'Neill is promoted out of his low-level surveillance job and into the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, his dream of becoming a full-fledged agent is on the verge of becoming reality. Even more impressive, O'Neill is hand picked to work for renowned operative Robert Hanssen within "information assurance," a new division created to protect all classified FBI Intelligence. But O'Neill is quickly confronted with the true reason behind his hire: Hanssen is the sole subject of a long-term, top-secret investigation, a suspected mole made all the more dangerous by the sheer global import of the information he is charged with protecting. The Bureau asks O'Neill to use Hanssen's growing trust and slowly draw the traitor out of deep cover. Engaged in a lethal game of spy-versus-spy without the benefit of a cover story or backup, O'Neill finds himself fighting to bring down Hanssen before the treacherous double-agent can destroy O'Neill, his family and the nation they are both sworn to serve.


Chris Cooper
as Robert Hanssen
Ryan Phillippe
as Eric O'Neill
Laura Linney
as Kate Burroughs
Caroline Dhavernas
as Juliana O'Neill
Gary Cole
as Rich Garces
Dennis Haysbert
as Dean Plesac
Kathleen Quinlan
as Bonnie Hanssen
Bruce Davison
as John O'Neill
Tom Barnett
as Jim Olsen
Jonathan Potts
as D.I.A. Suit
David Huband
as Photographer
Catherine Burdon
as Agent Nece
Scott Gibson
as Agent Sherin
Courtenay Stevens
as Agent Loper
Clare Stone
as Lisa Hannsen
Jonathan Keltz
as Greg Hanssen
Richard Fitzpatrick
as Michael Rochford
Craig Eldridge
as Gene Connors
Jonathan Whittaker
as Tim Bereznay
Reagan Pasternak
as Beautiful Reporter
Mary Jo Deschanel
as Vivian O'Neill
Elie Gemael
as Libyan Man
Oula Boubkraoui
as Libyan Wife
Chris Owens
as Trunk Cataloguer
Jonathon Ruckman
as SWAT Agent
Stan Coles
as Father McKee
Bart Bedford
as Information Center Manager
David Frisch
as Agent Pack
Scott McCulloch
as Director Louis Freeh
Mathew Lyons
as Richard
Greg Campbell
as Special Agent in Charge
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News & Interviews for Breach

Critic Reviews for Breach

All Critics (177) | Top Critics (53) | Fresh (149) | Rotten (28)

  • Breach is slow, but never ponderous, and not at all like your average spy thriller. It has less obvious thrills and more depth.

    Aug 31, 2007 | Rating: 3/5
  • An interestingly told tale: melancholy, thoughtful, and very un-American.

    Aug 31, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Despite a couple of tense set pieces, the suspense needed to ignite this film is disappointingly lacking.

    Aug 31, 2007 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • Tense, fascinating, worthwhile.

    Aug 31, 2007 | Rating: 4/6 | Full Review…
  • Despite a career-best turn from Chris Cooper, however, Breach is a weirdly muted affair.

    Aug 28, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Neil Smith
    Top Critic
  • Ultimately, the movie soars because of the inspired casting of Chris Cooper as Hanssen.

    Mar 21, 2007

    Andrew Sarris

    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Breach

  • May 15, 2013
    First he's messing with Jason Bourne and now he's a spy for the communists, so I think it's safe to say that Chris Cooper is your go-to guy if you want a corrupt man of high esteem within major government agencies, or at least that's how things appear. I'm getting to where I trust Cooper so little that I doubt anything he does, and it doesn't help that he's getting to look too leathery to be real. You would think that whoever Cooper really is wouldn't select a disguise that isn't getting to be so obviously a costume (The years have not been good to him is what I'm getting at), but hey, the fact of that matter is that you can never be too careful around Chris Cooper. Of course, through "Shattered Glass" and this film, alone, one thing is made for certain, and that is that Billy Ray sure knows how to make a film about someone going behind big organizations' backs, which leaves me to believe that he is, in fact, tricking the film industry into thinking that he's not actually Billy Ray Cyrus. Shoot, Billy Ray Cyrus probably couldn't even elude his own daughter, so I guess this Billy Ray deserves to be respected on his own as a man behind some pretty decent movies... and the co-writer for "Color of Night". Jeez, you really can't trust anyone, because Ray's debut didn't fulfill its duties of being a good film, or at least I don't think it did, because I'm among the lucky, well, many who didn't see "Color of Night". This film, however, is fairly enjoyable, and yet, it's hardly difficult at all to miss the flaws that have worked their way into things, or, for that matter, this story's direction. The film has no real pretense about being genuinely unique, and that obscures its conventionalism, which takes enough damage from story areas that are, in fact, relatively refreshing, though you can rarely, ever truly shake the feeling that this storytelling is a bit too familiar, and not just because this film is based on an infamous true story, hitting distinct formula tropes that give you something of an idea of where things are going to go, even if you're not too familiar with this tale. Conventional areas in storytelling aren't too terribly formulaic, but they are undeniable as components to the predictability that is firmly established through this film's shameless overemphasis on its being a true story, for although director Billy Ray isn't crowbarring in a wink and a nudge to people who know their conspiracy stories every chance he gets, and certainly has plenty of moments where he compensates for familiarity through effective intrigue, the film doesn't really want you to forget its story's outcome, and that slows down momentum, though not as much as spells in atmosphere that are anything but all that exciting. This is more of a conversational, maybe even meditative "thriller", so I wasn't really expecting or even hoping for a swift pace, but when the film really slows down with atmospheric momentum in the directorial storytelling department, it really slows down more than I feared, slipping into blandness, if not dullness that leaves you to slowly, but surely, drift away. The film isn't consistently bland, but it is more limp than it should be, distancing you with bland spells, and giving you plenty of time to think about that by dragging things out through fat around the edges of material that ends up joining with the aforementioned atmospheric dry spells to produce repetition. After a while, the film begins to meander a bit, and by after a while, I mean shortly into the body, and before too long, you find yourself given more than enough time to meditate upon just how thin this subject matter is, in spite of its importance. I, of course, prefer Ray's directorial debut, "Shattered Glass", which was made good by Ray's managing to flesh out minimalist subject matter with so much compelling confidence that you couldn't help but feel rewarded by the end, and sure, Ray's confidence is still here, enough so for the final product to border on rewarding, but not so pronounced that you can forget about this story's not really having all that much kick, largely because meandering slowness and conventionalism remind you of minimalism too much to keep general underwhelmingness at bay. Still, like I said, the final product borders on rewarding, not quite having enough kick to make it to bonafide goodness on the whole, but still being juicy enough to hold your attention just fine, even with such small things as cinematography and score. Again, the film isn't terribly conventional, but when it hits formulaic beats, it hits them fairly hard, with even Mychael Danna's score and Tak Fujimoto's cinematography being hardly anything all that unique, which isn't to say that Danna and Fujimoto don't take notes from commendable formulas, with Danna delivering on a chillingly minimalist and occasionally elegant score, while Fujimoto gives the film a drained, almost gritty look that is handsome and occasionally helps in reminding you of the dark intrigue of this subject matter. Even when it comes to style, this film's efforts are a bit too thin for their own good, but it's hard to deny commendable notes in the score and photography departments, which are hardly all that impressive, but sometimes decently compliment the film's effectiveness, the potential for which is a bit hefty. Like I said, this film's story concept is minimalist, as well as too familiar for its own good, partially thanks to beats that you can't really see make it too the screen without being cleansed of conventionalism, and largely thanks to this true story's being a bit too fresh for a sense of déjà vu to be diluted all that much, but this is still an important study on an intriguing espionage tale that has quite a bit of potential to translated into a rewarding, if a bit predictable dramatic thriller, as reflected by high points in the translation of this subject matter to the screen. I wish I could say that Billy Ray puts as much kick into this film as he put into "Shattered Glass", which, even then, isn't really extremely strong, but there is some degree of inspiration within Ray's efforts, which, in writing areas, joins the efforts of Adam Mazer and William Rotko in putting together a script with fairly well-rounded characterization that could have easily slipped into expository thinness, while the direction side of Ray's efforts grace the film with moments of genuine intrigue, maybe even tension as it unravels its juicy story. I think we can all agree that Ray should have never gone so far as to take this conversation drama and turned into a somewhat dumb, unsubtly overblown thriller, but the intrigue to this subject matter does stand to be more thoroughly explored, which isn't to say that there aren't enough commendable moments throughout this film that keep your engagement value from slipping too far. Of course, it's not like you're investment would be completely lost if Ray didn't give you those glimpses of genuine goodness, as this character study is consistently kept alive by, at the very least, strong portrayals of the characters who drive this story, with Ryan Phillippe being engagingly convincing as the young, ambitious and promising FBI employee who finds himself facing serious danger at the hands of the unpredictable spy whose portrayer steals the show, because even though Chris Cooper is too underwritten to be, as the Rotten Tomatoes consensus put it, "masterful", his charismatic and occasionally layered presence as a man of great faith, power and danger is chillingly effective. Cooper proves to be compelling as an unpredicable anatagonist, and while he's not so charged in his performance that he compensates for the many moments of underwhelmingness in intrigue value, his acting is just one of several strong notes that go into making this film engaging enough to get you by, even though it stands to kick just a little harder. To close this case, conventionalism exacerbates the predictability that is established firmly enough by a lack of effort to soften the familiarity within this reasonably fresh true story, while repetitious dragging and an all too often dry atmosphere bland things into a meandering limpness that does about as much as anything in holding the final product back from the bonafide goodness that is almost achieved, as there is enough attractiveness to score work and cinematography, intrigue to subject matter, - whose value is sometimes really emphasized by strong moments in writing and direction - and convincingness to the performances - particularly the one by Chris Cooper - to make Billy Ray's "Break" an adequately engaging, if quite flawed dramatization of the downfall of a great American traitor. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jan 24, 2011
    Based on a true story, Breach is slowly paced and hard to follow at times. It centers around a very interesting story about a man who gives U.S. secrets to Russia but some scenes are just boring as there is very little action. It's almost more of an inward drama, rather than visible tension. Otherwise, I did enjoy the film. I'd say it was average.
    Dannielle A Super Reviewer
  • Jun 18, 2010
    Breach is a very intense film based on the true story of Robert Hansen who commited the worst breach in US history. For over twenty years, Robert Hansen sold secrets to the Russians. Breach is the story that tells of investigation to catch Robert Hansen. A phenomenal Thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, Breach is one terrific film with a great cast. The film doesn't have action, but it more than makes up for it in thrills. A terrific film based on a shocking true story.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Jan 30, 2010
    Chris Cooper is solid always, Ryan Phillippe is liquid gay, I wonder who's the gas? Dat's me.
    Lenny M Super Reviewer

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