February 16, 2007, - 11:09 am
I disapprove of women in pants suits. . . . The world doesn’t need any more Hillary Clintons.
Because movie studio reps held only one screening, each, of “Breach” and “Ghost Rider,” both of them at the same time, I was unable to review both, so I chose “Breach,” because the topic–the investigation of and arrest of the FBI’s most infamous double agent, Robert Hanssen, interested me more than Nicholas Cage playing a comic book hero. I was also unable to review, “The Bridge to Terabithia,” because its screening was held on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. (It’s too bad because I liked that book as a kid.)
That said, I chose well. I liked “Breach” a lot. Though the story has been said and done before–in many books and a TV movie–this one is different.
Told from the point of view of Hanssen’s FBI assistant, Eric O’Neill (played well by Ryan Phillippe), “Breach” juxtaposes the good but not fanatical O’Neill with the hypocritical spy agent (Hanssen is played very believably by the scary Chris Cooper).
The movie, written by the real-life O’Neill, tells the story of how O’Neill an FBI surveillance unit analyst (who badly wants to become an FBI agent) is assigned to become O’Neill’s assistant and spy on him. O’Neill says he changed parts of the movie from the real-life version. For example, he knew all along that Hanssen was a spy and double agent. In the movie, that’s not the case. He doesn’t initially know why he’s spying on this bitter, but kindly man he grows to like. (Read the interesting article by Detroit Free Press film critic Terry Lawson on the real-life O’Neill and the changes in the movie from the real story.)
The movie is dark, suspenseful, and exciting without any blood or gore. (There is only one tiny sex scene on grainy video and no swearing.) You are entertained and on the edge of your seat the whole time, even though you know the ending of the true story on which it is based. This is what a thriller is supposed to be like. And it works.
My one reservation–a major reservation–with this movie is the repeated hammering of the viewer on the Catholicism issue.
Both O’Neill and Hanssen are Catholics, and the movie plays this angle up, big-time–the good “lapsed” Catholic agent-in-training vs. the evil religous Catholic. Respecting religious Catholics as I do, that is the most troubling part of this movie. Yes, Hanssen was a very devout, Opus Dei Catholic. But there are plenty of Catholics populating the FBI, and none of whom (except Hanssen) betrayed the country.
I wait for the day when a movie about the various disloyal Muslim FBI agents (like Gamal-Abdel Hafiz) and soldiers (a list too long to mention here) focuses on their religious hypocrisy. There are far more of them than there are Catholic versions of Hanssen.
And unlike Hanssen, they betray America in the name of Islam. Hanssen betrayed America for money, because he was disgruntled at not being appreciated or recognized by FBI higher-ups, and because he wanted to prove his complaints about holes in the system vulnerable to spying. None of those reasons are excusable. But none of them have a thing to do with Catholicism.
And I could have done without the one political crack at Kenneth Starr and the investigation of Bill Clinton, but there was also a great line for the rest of us–the best line of the movie, bar none, uttered by Hanssen:
I disapprove of women in pants suits. Men wear pants suits. The world doesn’t need any more Hillary Clintons.
Since gauche liberals in the audience hissed at the scene showing the changing of photos on the halls of the FBI building from Clinton/Reno to Bush/Ashcroft, I clapped loudly at that line about Hillary and pants suits. (For the record, I have pants suits, but a lot of skirt-suits–which I prefer–too.)
Tags: America, assistant, assistant and spy, Bill Clinton, Breach, Bush, Chris Cooper, Debbie Schlussel, Detroit Free Press, FBI building, Federal Bureau of Investigation, film critic, Gamal-Abdel Hafiz, Ghost Rider, Hillary Clintons, Kenneth Starr, Neill, Nicholas Cage, Robert Hanssen, Ryan Phillippe, spy, surveillance unit analyst, Terry Lawson