Starring: Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney
Director: Billy Ray
Running Time: 110 mins
Breach is an American film about a young FBI worker who is assigned to inform on his boss, a high-ranking agent suspected of illegal acts.
Although I can’t quite say that this is the greatest espionage thriller of recent years, there was quite a lot about Breach that made it an intriguing watch. What it lacks in a solid screenplay, it makes up for with a strikingly eerie atmosphere, some strong performances, and a good bit of tension here and there. It’s not a movie that will have you on the edge of your seat, but it has enough assurance and intrigue to keep you engrossed right the way through.
Let’s start with that eerie atmosphere, which is what I found the most striking part of the film as a whole. From the beginning, the whole thing moves at a piercingly slow pace, with an unsettling nature furthered by a relative lack of dialogue, and clever production design, as most of the first act takes place in a very grey and plain office. It’s a little difficult to get used to at first, but with the introduction of Chris Cooper’s character, who the young agent has been tasked to report on, there really is an excellent uneasiness about everything, something that pulled me into the story very effectively early on.
Chris Cooper is another reason that the film works well in that regard. Playing a veteran FBI agent suspected by the bureau of illegal acts, his performance is brilliantly unsetlling, and his hardline work attitude combined with an extreme degree of paranoia, as well as his deep (and almost fanatical) religious practices, all come together to make a character that’s incredibly unsettling to watch at every moment, lending even more tension to the idea that our main man is going to be found out in his snooping mission.
The first act establishes the characters and atmosphere well, to the point that I was well engaged in the story. However, things don’t really go up a gear at any point during the movie, and that’s unfortunately down to a screenplay that just doesn’t leave enough room for your imagination to run wild.
That opening act has the tension and suspense of seeing the young agent trying to evade detection by a veteran spy, and yet there’s a big revelation about halfway through that destroys that uneasiness. The slow pace remains, but because you’re suddenly told something that the film has already given an answer to in its opening scene with some non-chronological storytelling, there’s no longer the same sense of great threat to the whole affair.
The movie does remain engaging for the remainder of the runtime, however, and as we see our main man become increasingly flustered as he attempts to weed out the secrets that his boss is hiding, coupled with the boss’ ever-growing paranoia, there is still excitement and drama to be had, however it never has the same bite and power as the film’s beginning, which brings things to somewhat of a underwhelming and avoidably predictable conclusion, which is why I’m giving Breach a 7.1 overall.