True-life FBI tale mixes drama and thrills.
  • Review Date: June 11, 2007
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Everyone lies: Spies spy on one another, deceive one another, and plan for one another's destruction. The protagonist discovers that it doesn't matter which "side" he lies for because he feels bad about lying, period.


Discussions of agents who have died because of Hanssen's betrayals; brief images of bodies and blood; stash of weapons discovered in spy's car; shooting range scenes; climactic argument has one character shooting a gun at another repeatedly (missing, but threatening); final takedown involves an armed team.


References to Hanssen's "sex perversions" (online porn sites, adultery); Hanssen expresses dislike of "lesbians" (i.e. "unfeminine" women) on TV; image of Hanssen and wife in bed (she's in a slip; the scene later appears briefly on a tape that Hanssen is sending to a contact, and Juliana sees).


Some language, including one use of "f--k," as well as "hell," "dumbass," "bulls--t," and "goddamn it." Other colorful phrases include "pissing purple for a week," "take a s--t." Some homophobic language ("f-g").

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Discussion of favorite drinks (vodka martini, scotch).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this fact-based spy thriller probably won't be too appealing to most teens. It features some frank discussion of an FBI agent's supposed "sex perversions," with reference to tapes and Internet porn. There's also lots of deception, fretting about deception, and arguing about deception, as well as discussion of the effects of Hanssen's betrayals, including dead agents and national security breaches. A strictly Catholic agent demeans women in pantsuits (he calls them "Hillary" and "lesbians"). Following a couple of conversations about the FBI being a "gun culture," a tense, angry scene shows one man threatening to shoot another. Some language (one "f--k," plus other profanity like "s--t" and "damn").

What's the story?

BREACH is based on the true story of spy Robert Hanssen, who was arrested in 2001 for treason and sentenced to life in prison. Young agent Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe) is assigned to keep track of Hanssen's movements. Posing as Hanssen's assistant at a new, bogus FBI office, Eric is initially kept in the dark by his superior, Kate Burroughs (Laura Linney). She tells him that Hanssen (Chris Cooper) is suspected of "sexual perversions," which he hides behind a strictly Catholic façade. As Eric is both ambitious and looking for some sort of moral order in the shadowy world of the FBI, he comes to admire Hanssen's seeming adherence to rules and beliefs. Kate sets Eric straight by revealing that Hanssen was responsible for some 20 years' worth of leaks to the Russians, leading to many agents' deaths, and suddenly the young agent sees his part in this monumental takedown as crucial to national security.

Is it any good?


Breach focuses on Eric and Hanssen's tight, tense association, as each suffers differently for the lies he's forced to tell. Parallel investigations and multiple layers of deceit are galvanized by smart, taut, mostly understated performances. Yet Breach can't get around the mystery that Hanssen presents. Much as Eric embodies a stalwart, if fretful, morality, Hanssen remains a cipher, apparently untroubled by his lies and hypocrisies. Though Hanssen disdains most FBI regulations, he's adapted well to what he calls the Bureau's "gun culture." And though Eric mocks Hanssen's stiffness, he's also impressed by his sensitivity and religious faith.

Eric's own betrayals appear to be heroic in a traditional sense, yet he feels terrible about his choices. Breach uses some predictable plot structures, including speedy crosscutting during a scene in which Eric must delay Hanssen's return to the office, a sensational showdown in the dark woods, and heavy-handed religious iconography to pass judgment on Hanssen. If only the movie had trusted Cooper's subtle performance, allowing that to convey the suspense.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the costs -- emotional, professional, political, and spiritual -- of being a professional spy. What would it be like to lie for a living, even if you believed in what you were doing wholeheartedly? Does Eric make correct the moral decisions? How can you define what's "correct"? Does Hanssen's Catholicism affect your opinion of him? How? How accurate do you think the movie is? How could you go about finding out more about Hanssen and what he did?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 15, 2007
DVD release date:June 12, 2007
Cast:Chris Cooper, Laura Linney, Ryan Phillippe
Director:Billy Ray
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:110 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:violence, sexual content and language.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
Teen, 14 years old Written byMovieFan April 9, 2008

Loved it!

While it's a formula spy picture, Breach is so well made and well acted. Chris Cooper plays Robert Hanssen, a traitor inside the FBI. This is the story of how that caught him. Ryan Phillippe and Laura Linney co-star. In my opinion, okay for ages 10+
Adult Written bynichalex April 9, 2008

I was bored.

Breach didn't show how Hanssen contacted Russians; it concentrated too much on trivial information that wasn't necessary. Breach isn't as good as Falcon and Snow Man, Family of Spies, Aldrich Ames, and Master Spy. Also, the score isn't suspenseful.


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