"Breach" DVD Review

June 17, 2007 by Zach Demeter

Donít let the trailers for Breach fool you. While it seem to have played on the heels of last summerís The Sentinel with Kiefer Sutherland (and Breach was even advertised with a few clips of Dennis Haysbert, an alumni of 24, like Sutherland), Breach trounces The Sentinel in every way imaginable. Ignore the advertisingóthe only relation the two films share is that they deal with the government.

Breach tells the story of Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent that was ousted in early 2001 for his selling secrets to Russia for the better part of two decades. While the film retrieves its basis from this historical incident, it focuses not on Hanssen but on Eric OíNeill, the operative assigned to help expose Hanssen. If you havenít heard of OíNeill itís because he was never mentioned in the myriad of books that followed the arrest of Hanssen. OíNeill was kept hidden by the FBI in the event a trial would take place; however, Hanssen plead guilty and a trial was never needed, allowing OíNeill to be revealed to the public and the (massive) part he played in the capture of Hanssen.

There are no big shoot outs in the film (the only guns fired are in the gun range and a particularly tense scene with Hanssen and OíNeil in the woods) or explosions, so donít expect a summer blockbuster from this film. Perhaps itís because I expected so little from this film that I was so impressed by it, but even on a second viewing I did nothing but appreciate the film and after listening to the commentary itís clear a lot of hard work and effort went into the making of this film. Not only is the vast majority of the film historically accurate (as it should be), with very few details changed or embellished (the final scene between OíNeill and Hanssen never occurred), itís simply an engaging look at the incidents that went on at the FBI during this tense time in our nationís history.

While itís true that the film will likely resonate more with Americanís than the rest of the world, looking at the film even from the non-historical perspective makes for an engaging movie. The bonding between OíNeill and Hanssen, their religious discussions and the ultimate capture of Hanssen is all engaging and the fact that it actually happened only serves to enhance an already wonderful film.

One thing youíll likely notice in this film is there are no real giant movie stars. While Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe are stars in their own right, they arenít names you hear around the household every day. While it may have hurt the films marketability, the acting from all of the crew is outstanding. After having just seen Phillippe play a relatively silent part in Flags of Our Fathers, it was interesting to see him come alive in this film. While his character is quiet in this film as well, he comes alive in his fights with his wife, Juliana OíNeill (played by Caroline Dhavernas) and the confrontation with Hanssen in the woods. The only weak acting I saw in the film was on Caroline Dhavernas part, but on the second viewing it didnít play nearly as weakóI think it was more just adjusting to the character of Juliana OíNeill for me than Dhavernasís acting.

In a sea of mediocre movies, Breach is a refreshing film that easily entertains you for the near two hours it runs. While it may seem slow to some, once the big reveal to OíNeill is given, the film goes from climbing the big incline on a rollercoaster to barreling down the tracks. Breach comes Highly Recommended.

The DVD
A quiet film that has a quiet DVD release, Breach comes in a single disc DVD in an amaray case security lock case with an HD-DVD insert inside. Disc art is the same plain ďartĒ that Universal has been using (mirror surface disc with simple black lettering). Menus are simple and effect.

The video and audio of this release is moderate. Audio is clean and clear and focused mainly on the front channels. Video is a bit grainy and messy looking at times, which is odd for a film as new as this. I canít tell if itís the transfer or if this is how the film was shot, but there is a lot of transfer dancing going on during the film.

Moving onto the special features, we get a satisfying crop of extras. Up first is eighteen minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, which range from interesting to downright humorous. Itís obvious, as with most deleted scenes, why these were left out or cut down and the accompanying commentary for each scene explains in full why they were cut. The best of the scenes is one where Hanssen is testing OíNeillís ability to answer the phoneónot only is it a good scene, it is actually a rather humorous one, which is one of the reasons it was cut. Not to say the film doesnít have a laugh once or twice, but it was a little too silly to have floating in a movie such as this.

Two featurettes made for the film are up next. The first gives an inside look at the production of the film, with comments from the majority of the cast (something refreshing to seeótoo often you see only the minor actors talking about the film, but in this we get all of the actors in addition to crew). This featurette is your typical making-of short style documentary and is accompanied by an more in-depth look into Chris Cooperís portrayal of Robert Hanssen. Oddly enough there is no featurette on how Phillippe became OíNeill, but I suppose thatís because OíNeill was actually onset of the film, making Phillippeís portrayal less research filled.

A Dateline feature, ďThe MoleĒ, from 3/05/01 is included on the set as well. If only to familiarize yourself with this story, this featurette is worth watching it. Itís your typical Dateline piece with interviews from friends and family (if you question why OíNeill isnít mentioned, itís because, as stated above, he wasnít disclosed at this point in time). Another interesting piece to watch on this set after you view the film.

Finally we have the commentary. Director Billy Ray provides a wall-to-wall dialogue track and is accompanied by Eric OíNeill himself. While OíNeill rarely talks unless prodded by Ray, he does comment on the authenticity of some of the scenes (sadly, he doesnít say whether the shooting scene in the woods actually took place or not) and drops a few cool insights into the FBI (they arenít allowed internet access). On top of Rayís back patting of all of the actors (though he doesnít comment on Haysbert at all, despite praising him on the ďBreaching the TruthĒ featurette), he isnít afraid to point out scenes he feels are inadequate or directed badly. Heís a very honest director and itís refreshing to hear such a track after all of the self-important crap Iíve listened to over the years.

Overall I doubt this film will ever get another DVD release. Not to say it doesnít deserve it, but this one is perfect for the size of film this is. There are no in-depth featurettes needed (I never felt they were when the films themselves have commentary by the director) and the inclusion of Eric OíNeill in the extras is a key in making the featurettes feel every bit worthwhile to watch. Along with the film, the DVD comes Highly Recommended.

Breach is now available on DVD in fullscreen and widescreen as well as on HD-DVD in a combo HD-DVD/DVD format.

 

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