Breach (Ray, 2007)

Billy Ray strikes me as a very determined director. At first glance, his films represent important, edgy projects revealing the underbelly of American corruption, especially in typically powerful, honest positions. But both his first project Shattered Glass (2003) and now Breach, which deals with the biggest security breach in U.S. history, produces a tame, almost impotent feel in both direction and action which irritates and disrupts the story consistently. Both films are impressive attempts at dissecting the reasoning behind turning on those you’re trained to love, a theme which shines through the lead performances by Hayden Christensen (as the plagiarist in Glass) and Chris Cooper as the traitor Hanssen in Breach. However, there’s a lack of danger or tension, especially in Breach, which moves at such a somber, deliberately monotone pace one can’t help but get frustrated. Espionage has never been more banal (see De Niro’s The Good Shepherd for an improvement). Breach is anchored by Cooper’s excellent performance, yet it never attains a gravitas one would expect from a powerhouse incarnation, mainly because the film itself doesn’t know what to do with him, represented best and most often by Phillippe’s clerk O’Neil. I wish Ray would take a few more chances in terms of story and character, in turn livening up his very typical proceedings of chameleons out maneuvering their moral captors.

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