DVD Review: Breach

Universal
Movie •••½ Picture ••• Sound ••• Extras •••½
As he showed with the underrated Shattered Glass, director/co-writer Billy Ray has a good feel for intelligent, morally ambiguous characters and their often complex motivations - particularly when the story is about real people. Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent who for 2 decades sold secrets to the Soviet Union, is the true-life subject here, and Breach is a meaty story on lots of levels. In the hands of actor Chris Cooper (also underrated), Hanssen comes across as a deeply flawed human being - intellectually, spiritually, and morally bankrupt. But is he evil? Ray and Cooper respect their audience enough to leave that question for them to decide.

The DVD medium isn't exactly stretched to its limits with this film; don't expect to see bold tones or vivid contrast. In fact, the movie's lack of intense imagery may be at least partially purposeful, perhaps meant to underscore the idea that this kind of espionage happens in the shadows. Regardless, what you get is a workmanlike transfer that reproduces the film's rather pedestrian color palette.

The 5.1-channel sound is also understated. And for an utterly dialogue-driven film, that's fine. You get the occasional gunshot and punctuating effect from the surround channels, but for the most part the ear candy is kept to a minimum.

The disc has a lot of decent extras, including two reasonably interesting making-of featurettes containing interviews with a large portion of the cast and crew. You also get 18 minutes of alternate and deleted scenes that add a bit to the narrative but, as is usually the case, are best left out of the finished film. The most illuminating extra by far is a commentary by Ray and Eric O'Neill, Hanssen's real-life FBI adversary and the ultimate revealer of his 20-year career as a rat. Unfortunately, O'Neill - a well-spoken guy with a great story to tell - is portrayed in the film by the handsome but bland Ryan Phillippe. Too bad. [PG-13] English and French, Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed (1.85:1) and anamorphic widescreen; dual layer.

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