My daughter-in-law in Mesquite recommended this movie, based on our mutual admiration for Chris Cooper ("Lone Star" and his Academy Award winning role in "Adaptation"). I was aware of the movie and was happy to go because I also have come to respect Ryan Phillippe ("Crash" and "Gosford Park"). The bonus casting included Laura Linney ("PS" and "You Can Count on Me") and that astonishing chameleon, Gary Cole ("Office Space," "Talladega Nights" and "Win A Date With Todd Hamilton!").

The movie is about the real-life spy, Robert Hanssen, his proven brilliance and his unsuspected flaws. This is the man who was a counter-intelligence mole for the Soviet Union for over two decades, only to be brought down in 2001 by a neophyte F.B.I. plant, Eric O'Neill, competently backed by the technophiles in the agency, who had reluctantly come to suspect him. Hanssen was responsible for countless deaths of agents when he betrayed them to the KGB. He was a loving and considerate family man, a devout Catholic, a porno enthusiast, and a megalomaniac. His motive never seemed to be about money, but simply the act of outwitting his fellow agents and secretly scoffing at them. Of course, Chris Cooper does flawless work; you can actually SEE his brain work.

The agent, Eric O'Neill, is completely taken in by Hanssen and thinks he is wasting both his and the F.B.I.'s time. He asks to be taken off the case and put to more valuable use (he's a computer whiz). Ryan Phillippe is handicapped by his looks, he is so pretty that we are inclined to disregard him as an actor. He was totally wasted in "Gosford Park" but looked better to me in "Crash." (I haven't seen "Flags of Our Fathers" yet.) Because the book on which the film is based was written by O'Neill, you see most of the story unfold through his eyes. He makes several blunders that almost cost the agency their case...and because the agency has moved Hanssen to a more prestigious rank, Hanssen, always alert and always suspicious, smells a rat and prepares to jump ship.

There are some frantic moments that effectively keep you on the edge of your seat, despite the fact that the movie begins with the announcement of Hanssen's arrest, so I haven't shared any spoilers here. O'Neill is painfully aware that he is in over his head and his ploys are borne more out of desperation, than intelligence.

Laura Linney never disappoints and Gary Cole is an absolute wonder. When you compare his skinny hillbilly redneck "Pa" in "Talladega Nights" to his unctuous boss in "Office Space," it is hard to believe he is the same man. His sycophantic father in "Todd Hamilton" is totally unlike his quiet, capable officer in "Breach." He isn't one to don costumes or disguises, he just transforms his persona. He is amazing!