Billy Ray's Shattered Glass was a movie that managed to be both an exposé and a meditation on the nature of journalistic integrity. He attempts a similar feat with Breach, and while the results are interesting, they are also much more uneven. In the end, while I respected what he was doing with the film, it wound up feeling like less than the sum of its parts.
The most important part of the film is, of course, Chris Cooper as the contradiction-filled Robert Hanssen. The scenes with him are so good that it is all the more disappointing that the film falls apart when he isn't on the screen. And while the general arc that his and Ryan Phillippe's characters follow is somewhat familiar, it is given an extra spin by Cooper's multilayered performance. Ultimately, the film boils down to a portrayal of who Hanssen was, and somehow Cooper manages to make him a brusque, racist, creepy, angry and sexist right winger... and yet he still manages to evoke some empathy.
Laura Linney also appears as the agent who brings Phillippe into the operation. The portrayal of her character is another of the film's missteps; her relationship to Phillippe is way too personable, but she never manages to balance out the effect of Cooper's presence. Similarly, the scenes with Caroline Dhavernas as his wife and Bruce Davison as his father are unremarkable retreads of material that has been done better before elsewhere.
This is not to say that the film is bad. It isn't. It just never quite gets into the right groove for itself and it leads to a very anti-climactic finale. The movie emphasizes the relationship between Cooper and Phillippe, which means that it doesn't really delve much into why Hanssen did what he did, despite a throwaway scene towards the end of the film with Dennis Haysbert. The film is worth seeing for Cooper's work alone, however, but the rest of the movie never quite reaches its promise.
I did enjoy Mychael Danna's score, which was also integrated very well into the film.