Making the Grades
Covert actions, surreptitious secrets and espionage are ingredients for a good suspense film---even more so when they are based on recent historical events.
On February 20, 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the arrest of long-time FBI agent Robert Hanssen and charged him with providing national secrets to Russia and the former Soviet Union. However, bringing down the United States' most infamous spy proved to be a lengthy and challenging procedure.
In Breach, the FBI's clandestine operations to catch the notorious mole in action are unfolded. Agent-in-training Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe) is assigned to a desk job in the basement office of Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), a grumpy, mistrustful counterintelligence officer who works with Intel. Only weeks away from retirement, Robert is bitter about the lack of credibility the FBI has given to his findings on computer security issues. He isn't too happy about the new clerk he's been given either.
Admittedly Eric is also unsure about the career move. According to Agent Kate Burroughs (Laura Linney) and other officials at FBI headquarters, Hanssen is under investigation for fraud, sexual deviancy and other highly classified concerns that may cause embarrassment to the nation. As an undercover operative, they want Eric to expose whatever dirt he can on his new boss. But despite Robert's rough demeanor, Eric finds his respect growing for this man who seemingly devotes his life to daily religious worship, a loving family and the safety of his country. Before long, Eric starts to question what he should believe.
Only after Robert and his wife (Kathleen Quinlan) zealously begin to push their religious beliefs on the non-practicing Eric and his unconverted wife Juliana (Caroline Dhavernas) does the young clerk grow uneasy. The young couple's marriage is further jeopardized by the time commitments of the new assignment and Eric's inability to let Juliana in on the details of his work.
With so many unanswered questions surfacing, trust soon becomes a commodity every one wants yet no one is willing to give.
Considering the nature of the plot, the script is compelling and avoids much of the content it could have delved into. Still, audiences are subjected to the bloody execution of two Soviet spies, close-range gunfire, brief views of grainy homemade porno films, some sexual comments and a strong expletive. While adults may be intrigued by the rise and fall of Robert Hanssen, the infrequent but strong content issues in this film will likely breach most parents' guidelines for family viewing.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Breach.
Although Eric is anxious to become an FBI agent, he soon realizes the pressure that comes with the job. What effect does frequent lying have on his life? How does the secretive nature of his job affect his marriage? What other kinds of careers may put a strain on family and marital relationships?
Do you think that religion is portrayed fairly in this film? Is there a line between being a devoted practitioner of one’s religious beliefs and being overzealous?
How does confidence in others affect relationships? Is it always easy to tell who is trustworthy? What breaches in trust are depicted in this film?
To read the actual FBI press release information concerning the arrest of Robert Hanssen, go to