Jan 2008 30

Billy Ray’s directorial follow up to the excellent Shattered Glass is a solid political thriller that is diminished by the fact that we know the outcome from the opening frame.
The story tells the events leading up to the arrest of Robert Hanssen, a FBI operative who was the biggest double agent spies in the history of the U.S. Blamed with the loss of two lives he leaked an incredible amount of info to the Russians both before and after the end of the cold war. Hanssen a teach guy and sexual deviant is put under surveillance in his new post in D.C. by Eric O’Neill. A field agent looking for his big break with the agency, O’Neill (played well by Ryan Phillippe) jumps at the opportunity to investigate a highly respected official. Though O’Neill isn’t let in on the big picture as, Agent Burroughs (the great Laura Linney), doesn’t let him know he is a traitor.
Hanssen is played brilliantly by the always great Chris Cooper and he does a fantastic job of showing us why O’Neill was so conflicted and caught on to the ruse Burroughs was pulling over his eyes. All of the actors bring excellent work and Ray assembles a very taught and well paced thriller. Though, the thrill is taken out of the fact that we know he is caught. O’Neill dealing and buying time with Hanssen creates tension at times but if they would have left us an ambiguous conclusion the whole film would have a lot more weight and have made the film better as a whole.

Phillippe rubs a lot of people the wrong way and he doesn’t change his shtick much here, but he carries the movie well and this is probably one of his better performances to date. He can come across as fairly one dimensional though but I think he played the part particularly well. The supporting cast is also good with Dennis Haysbert and Gary Cole turning in good work as agents in on the investigation while also adding a bit of light humor to the proceedings.
The movie is very well done though and if you don’t know anything about it and skip the opening news clip with John Ashcroft the movie is probably far more enjoyable. It is an excellent showcase for the actors involved and puts an important, yet little known story about one this countries government blunders on film for people to learn more about.
Ray continues to prove that he is an excellent filmmaker and sooner or later is going to explode on to the scene with an amazing movie that knocks the socks off of people’s feet. This falls quite a bit short of that but is a very solid film that most fans of political intrigue will enjoy and is a must see for any of the fans of the actors involved.


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