Breach (film)
Breach is a 2007 American historical drama directed by Billy Ray. The screenplay by Ray, Adam Mazer, and William Rotko is based on the true story of Robert Hanssen
Robert Hanssen
Robert Philip Hanssen is a former American FBI agent who spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services against the United States for 22 years from 1979 to 2001...

, an FBI
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 agent convicted of spying for the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and later Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 for more than two decades, and Eric O'Neill, who worked as his assistant and helped bring about his downfall. O'Neill served as a consultant on the film.


Eric O'Neill is a young FBI employee assigned to work undercover as a clerk to Robert Hanssen
Robert Hanssen
Robert Philip Hanssen is a former American FBI agent who spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services against the United States for 22 years from 1979 to 2001...

, a senior agent he is told is suspected of being a sexual deviant. Hanssen has been recalled to FBI headquarters ostensibly to head up a new division specializing in Information Assurance
Information Assurance
Information assurance is the practice of managing risks related to the use, processing, storage, and transmission of information or data and the systems and processes used for those purposes...


Initially, Hanssen insists on a strict formality between the two men. He frequently rails against the bureaucracy
A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

 of the FBI and complains that only those who regularly "shoot guns" are considered for senior positions instead of those, like himself, who are involved in vital national security matters. He calls the bureau's information technology
Information technology
Information technology is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications...

 systems antiquated and laments the lack of coordination and information exchange with other intelligence agencies.

Eventually, Hanssen becomes a friend and mentor
In Greek mythology, Mentor was the son of Alcimus or Anchialus. In his old age Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who placed Mentor and Odysseus' foster-brother Eumaeus in charge of his son Telemachus, and of Odysseus' palace, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War.When Athena visited Telemachus she...

 to O'Neill and takes a personal interest in him and his wife Juliana, who is suspicious of Hanssen and resents his intrusions. A devout Catholic who is also a member of Opus Dei
Opus Dei
Opus Dei, formally known as The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei , is an organization of the Catholic Church that teaches that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life is a path to sanctity. The majority of its membership are lay people, with secular priests under the...

, Hanssen urges O'Neill, a lapsed Catholic, and his secular East German-born wife to become active churchgoers.

O'Neill finds no evidence of Hanssen leading a secret double life and develops a growing respect for his boss, so he confronts his handler in the undercover
Being undercover is disguising one's own identity or using an assumed identity for the purposes of gaining the trust of an individual or organization to learn secret information or to gain the trust of targeted individuals in order to gain information or evidence...

 assignment, Kate Burroughs, and she admits that the sexual deviance allegations are only a secondary consideration. Hanssen is suspected of spying for the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 for years and being responsible for the deaths of agents working for the United States. He learns that FBI Director Louis Freeh
Louis Freeh
Louis Joseph Freeh was the 5th Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, serving from September 1993 to June 2001....

 is personally leading the investigation.

While the FBI could arrest Hanssen under lesser charges, they want to catch him in an act of espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

, so they can threaten him with the death penalty for treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

 and possibly induce him to divulge the information he has compromised. O'Neill is ordered to obtain data from Hanssen's Palm Pilot and keep him occupied while FBI agents search his car and plant covert listening device
Covert listening device
A covert listening device, more commonly known as a bug or a wire, is usually a combination of a miniature radio transmitter with a microphone. The use of bugs, called bugging, is a common technique in surveillance, espionage and in police investigations.A bug does not have to be a device...

s in it.

The tracking devices in Hanssen's car cause interference with the radio, which makes Hanssen suspicious. He also wonders why he was placed in an isolated position in the FBI only a few months before he's scheduled to retire. He tells O'Neill he believes he is being surveilled by Russian agents. The FBI intercepts a message he sends to his Russian handlers saying he will not provide any more information. O'Neill persuades Hanssen that he is not being trailed by the Russians or by him on behalf of the FBI. With his confidence restored, Hanssen makes one last dead drop
Dead drop
A dead drop or dead letter box is a method of espionage tradecraft used to pass items between two individuals by using a secret location and thus does not require them to meet directly. Using a dead drop permits a Case Officer and his Agent to exchange objects and information while maintaining...

 of stolen information, and the FBI catches him in the act.

Although he is assured promotion, O'Neill is discouraged with the toll the case has taken on his marriage and opts to leave the agency to work in the private sector. After he tells Burroughs of his intentions, she wishes him well, then O'Neill leaves his office with his belongings. He manages to catch an elevator before it descends, but is taken aback to see Hanssen inside, in handcuffs flanked by Plesac and an officer. Their eyes meet, and Hanssen tells O'Neill "Pray for me." O'Neill promises that he will. The doors close and the scene fades to black.


  • Chris Cooper
    Chris Cooper (actor)
    Christopher W. "Chris" Cooper is an American film actor. He became well known in the late 1990s. He has appeared in supporting performances in several major Hollywood films, including The Bourne Identity, American Beauty, Capote, The Town, The Kingdom, Syriana, October Sky, Seabiscuit, and...

     as Robert Hanssen
  • Ryan Phillippe
    Ryan Phillippe
    Matthew Ryan Phillippe , better known as Ryan Phillippe, is an American actor. After appearing on the soap opera One Life to Live, he came to fame in the late 1990s starring in a string of films, including I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cruel Intentions, and 54...

     as Eric O'Neill
  • Laura Linney
    Laura Linney
    Laura Leggett Linney is an American actress of film, television, and theatre. Linney has won three Emmy Awards, two Golden Globes, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. She has been nominated for three times for an Academy Award and once for a BAFTA Award...

     as Kate Burroughs
  • Caroline Dhavernas
    Caroline Dhavernas
    Caroline Dhavernas is a Canadian actress. Dhavernas is best known in the United States as "Jaye" from the short-lived television series Wonderfalls on Fox. She starred as Dr. Lily Brenner in the ABC medical drama Off the Map.-Life and career:...

     as Juliana O'Neill
  • Dennis Haysbert
    Dennis Haysbert
    Dennis Dexter Haysbert is an American film and television actor. He is known for portraying baseball player Pedro Cerrano in the Major League film trilogy, President David Palmer on the American television series 24, and Sergeant Major Jonas Blane on the drama series The Unit, as well as his work...

     as Dean Plesac
  • Gary Cole
    Gary Cole
    Gary Michael Cole is an American actor. Cole is known for his supporting roles in numerous film and television productions since the 1990s.-Early life:...

     as Rich Garces
  • Kathleen Quinlan
    Kathleen Quinlan
    Kathleen Denise Quinlan is an Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated American actress, mostly seen on television and in motion pictures.-Personal life:...

     as Bonnie Hanssen
  • Bruce Davison
    Bruce Davison
    Bruce Davison is an American actor and director.-Early life:Davison was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Marian E. , a secretary, and Clair W. Davison, a musician, architect, and draftsman for the Army Engineers. His parents divorced when he was three years old. He was raised by his...

     as John O'Neill
  • Tom Barnett as Jim Olsen
  • Jonathan Watton as Geddes
  • Jonathan Potts
    Jonathan Potts
    Jonathan Potts is a Canadian actor whose career began in the late 1980s. His earliest work was as the voice of Troy Jeffries in the animated television series Beverly Hills Teens. He is best known for providing the voice of Link from The Legend of Zelda animated series...

     as D.I.A. Suit
  • David Huband
    David Huband
    David Huband , also known as Dave Huband, is a Canadian actor. He is best known for his roles on Cinderella Man as Ford Bond and in the films Cube Zero, Dirty Pictures and The Lookout.-Career:...

     as Photographer
  • Catherine Burdon as Agent Nece
  • Scott Gibson
    Scott Gibson
    Scott Gibson is an English professional footballer who plays as a midfielder. He is currently without a club.-Youth and college:...

     as Agent Sherin

Critical reception

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes is a website devoted to reviews, information, and news of films—widely known as a film review aggregator. Its name derives from the cliché of audiences throwing tomatoes and other vegetables at a poor stage performance...

 reported 84% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 167 reviews. Metacritic
Metacritic is a website that collates reviews of music albums, games, movies, TV shows and DVDs. For each product, a numerical score from each review is obtained and the total is averaged. An excerpt of each review is provided along with a hyperlink to the source. Three colour codes of Green,...

 reported the film had an average score of 74 out of 100, based on 36 reviews.

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

said, "One of the strengths of Breach, a thriller that manages to excite and unnerve despite our knowing the ending, is how well it captures the utter banality of this man and his world."

Peter Travers
Peter Travers
Peter Travers is an American film critic, who has written for, in turn, People and Rolling Stone. Travers also hosts a celebrity interview show called Popcorn on ABC News Now and

 of Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone is a US-based magazine devoted to music, liberal politics, and popular culture that is published every two weeks. Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and music critic Ralph J...

rated the film 3½ out of four stars, calling it a "steadily gripping hothouse of a thriller." He added, "Director and co-writer Billy Ray, who detailed the misconduct of journalist Stephen Glass at The New Republic
The New Republic
The magazine has also published two articles concerning income inequality, largely criticizing conservative economists for their attempts to deny the existence or negative effect increasing income inequality is having on the United States...

in 2003's Shattered Glass ... proves himself a filmmaker of uncommon talent and ambition."

Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
thumb|right|upright|The Chronicle Building following the [[1906 San Francisco earthquake|1906 earthquake]] and fireThe San Francisco Chronicle is a newspaper serving primarily the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California, but distributed throughout Northern and Central California,...

commented, "Breach suffers from lavishing so much attention on a relatively minor figure ... O'Neill, at least the way he's presented, isn't a particularly compelling character, and he is made less so by Phillippe's lackluster performance ... [The film] expends too much energy on a minor functionary, but it is still worth seeing for its fleeting looks into a heart of darkness."

Peter Rainer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor is an international newspaper published daily online, Monday to Friday, and weekly in print. It was started in 1908 by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist. As of 2009, the print circulation was 67,703.The CSM is a newspaper that covers...

named Breach the best film of the year. Richard Schickel
Richard Schickel
Richard Warren Schickel is an American author, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He is a film critic for Time magazine, having also written for Life magazine and the Los Angeles Times Book Review....

 of Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

ranked it #6 and called Chris Cooper's performance "brilliant". Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

named it the ninth best film of 2007.

Box office

The film opened on 1,489 theaters screens in the US and earned $10,504,990 on its opening weekend, ranking #6 among all films in release. It eventually grossed $33,231,264 domestically and $7,722,671 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $40,953,935.


The filmmakers fictionalized much of Eric O'Neill's story, as mentioned in the end credits. Among the major changes made for the film:
  • The real O'Neill knew going in that Hanssen was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. There was no cover story about sexual perversions, and no dramatic meeting where O'Neill learned the truth.
  • There was no extensive contact outside the office between O'Neill and Hanssen as portrayed in the film (the O'Neills visiting the Hanssens, the Hanssens dropping by O'Neill's apartment). However, Hanssen did take O'Neill to church.
  • The scene where Hanssen takes O'Neill out into the woods and drunkenly fires his pistol is fictional.
  • Unlike in the movie, O'Neill never saw Hanssen after the arrest.
  • While O'Neill did obtain Hanssen's PDA, he took it to FBI techs to download rather than downloading it himself.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.