The wonderfully crafted docudrama Breach is both an entertaining and disturbing movie. It is the story of America’s most prominent double-agent spy, Robert Hanssen, who sold more priceless American secrets to the Soviets than any other agent ever convicted in U. S. history. Chris Cooper’s portrayal of Agent Hanssen is anything but humdrum. He chillingly takes the viewer into a deeply complex world of spying and national security. In the process he powerfully exposes how vulnerable our best intelligence really is when an agent is willing to sell his soul.
What is so disturbing about this movie is not just the depth to which Hanssen’s deception went but how deeply this deception was entertwined with his commitments to Christian faith, Hanssen was a deeply devoted member of Opus Dei, a renewal movement in the Roman Catholic Church. As everyone knows the Catholic Church has come under culture-wide suspicion, for well over a decade now, for sexual scandals related to some of its priests. This movie exposes a whole different kettle of fish—the nature to which a person can use religious faith to advance a double-life built on a series of lies that cost others their lives in the process. Opus Dei has gotten a bum rap in almost every case. Sadly, this movie will bring even more suspicion upon this generally fine movement of devoted Catholics.
Let no one, however, point the finger at Catholics in this matter. Evangelicals have their own share of high-profile hypocrites. I found the level of Hanssen’s sexual deviancy and religious devotion almost beyond belief. But then I was reminded of how sin truly makes us all sick and of the simple fact that in every heart there lurks the potential for immense evil. I was also reminded of how we are all, most profoundly, sexual beings. Too much of religious teaching fails to face this reality as it should.
Ryan Phillippe powerfully plays the part of Chris O’Neil, a young aspiring FBI staffer who wants to become an agent in the worst way. He takes on the task of shadowing Hanssen until Hanssen is finally caught in the act of delivering information to the Soviets in early 2001. (O’Neil’s story is almost as interesting, in a different way, as Hanssen’s.) In the end O’Neil’s journey takes an interesting twist as well. This is a must-see film for Christians who want to understand a world they know so very little about. It is also a must-see film for times like the present when we need to realize the real nature of our national security and its importance to our future. This is, very simply, a superb film!
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Move over, Roger Ebert, there’s a new kid in town! Great review, John! My wife and I saw this film a couple of days ago and found it exactly as you described. Cooper’s portrayal of Hannsen’s betrayal is amazing and definitely disturbing.