Breach

I’m increasingly interested in this, the reviews have been good so far, and the topic is certainly interesting. It opens tonight, anyone seen it yet?

Typically February sucks for movies, but I agree it does seem like interesting subject matter. I hope this is the movie that breaks the rule.

The lone fact that Caroline Dhavernas is in it has me tempted to see it. (She was Jaye in the critically-adored-but-killed-in-the-cradle Wonderfalls).

Heard some very conflicting things about this movie, but would be interesting to see nonetheless. For some reason I’m guessing they won’t make much sense of his motivations.

Caroline was in Hollywoodland too, did you make a beeline to the seats for that one? :p

— Alan

Nah, the Baffleck factor neutralized the Caroline factor.

I’d probably rent it though, I’ll tell you how she is.

— Alan

Affleck actually turned in a decent performance, though.

Seeing it in a few hours, I’ll let you know. The Good Shepard doesn’t seem to be playing in many theatres, incidentally. Backup CIA movie!

Seeing it with 3 guys who work at Langley, I told them to keep quiet and not groan at inaccuracies.

At one point, I worked four doors down from Hanssen. I’m not saying I knew him well, just nodding in the hall kind of stuff. I’m going to watch the movie just to see what hot Hollywood stud plays the guy in my office.

Hopefully it’s Tom Chick.

Well, it was sold out, so I saw the Good Shepard today instead, which was great.

However, I did here a good joke the spooks told me last night:

Two Iraqis get granted visas and come to America. They are close friends, but have to go their seperate ways when they get stateside. They agree to meet up in one year and see who is more Americanized. A year goes by and they meet up. The first one starts: “Well, last weekend I watched the game on my HDTV with a bunch of friends and downed a whole 12 pack of Coors Light. I’d say I’m pretty Americanized. So what about you?”

The second one replies:

“Fuck you towelhead!”

Also, I was reminded Hansen worked for the FBI. Duh.

Saw it last night. It was solid and surprisingly taut in some places, which is impressive considering that you already know how this all ends. I even felt pity for Hanssen when the FBI van full of CT commandos pulls up to arrest him. A few good chuckle lines, but they played it pretty straight. And Caroline Dhavernas is wonderful as the East German wife of the FBI dude.

Thumbs marginally down. It’s an interesting subject (and of particular interest to me) that they manage to suck a lot of the life out of. There are a few great sequences and moments, but overall the movie is just too slow. They have a great potential setup here with Hanssen as this master spy who wrote the book on counterintel, that a bunch of other agents – all his intellectual and spycraft inferiors – have to try to somehow outwit. Unaccountably, though, that mostly gets squandered. There’s very little spy stuff in it, which worked fine for me in “The Good Shepherd” because that movie wasn’t about catching spies, but didn’t really work for me here (even though this movie is arguably about the relationship of the two main characters).

I think the central dooming fact is the guy who plays the lead, Ryan Philippe. He just can’t pull this movie off. Chris Cooper is, on the whole, very good as Hanssen. The two main women (the wife, and the senior FBI agent) are also quite good, particularly the agent (I don’t know her name, but recognized her face, and she is great in this).

I’m interested to know how much of what they portray is true. Parts of it seemed outrageously unbelievable to me – people meeting out in the open to talk about how they’re secretly trying to bust Hanssen, leaving classified documents all over the place, etc. In the first 10 minutes the young FBI agent (Philippe) goes on a counterterror surveillance operation, and then that night shows his non-Bureau wife the photographs he took of the terrorists he’s secretly surveilling. Apparently there was a real person in his role, but I really wonder how it all worked. The idea that the FBI would bring in some raw clerk who hasn’t even officially made agent yet, stick him right in the middle of the biggest counterintel investigation in the history of the United States, and would brief him in on the whole thing…I don’t know anything about it, but boy does that seem like a dumb idea. I mean, the whole rest of the movie he frequently bumbles things up or makes dumb decisions, and they’re all like “YOU IDIOT YOU ALMOST BLEW THE ENTIRE OP,” and I’m thinking well WTF did you expect dumbass, he’s practically a college student.

Stuff like that is not uncommon. I’ve been a security manger for TS and above programs and many people admit to cutting their spouses in on quite a bit of classified information.

It’s interesting. I think there’s this natural assumption that people who work in our nation’s intelligence services are all pretty careful about guarding its secrets. And that’s probably not really that true. As things are portrayed in this movie, the FBI has spent years of time and dozens upon dozens of agents and analysts trying to nail Hanssen, and Hanssen could have tumbled to their operation by doing something as simple as hiring a private investigator to follow his aide around (“Gee, you’re meeting with super-agent Laura Linney out in public all the time? Maybe you’re more than you seem.”) It makes the whole spy/counterspy thing look less like a chess match between masters, and more like the Keystone Kops.

On a related note – and some spoilers here – there was one part of the movie I didn’t get. At the end of the movie, Hanssen demands to know who is calling O’Neill on the pager, and O’Neill says “My wife, obviously.” But by that point Hanssen knows it’s not the wife, and O’Neill knows Hanssen knows that, because of that whole deal at O’Neill’s house a couple weeks before (“We couldn’t reach you on your special pager” or whatever it was) . I mean, presumably Hanssen went to O’Neill’s home, the wife said he wasn’t back yet, and Hanssen said “Well just call his pager,” at which point the wife presumably said “What pager?” or “I don’t know the number” or something, right? And when Hanssen says “We couldn’t page you,” he’s telling O’Neill that he knows O’Neill has been lying to him about the pager. So how come at the end, everyone acts like that never happened?

Frankly you’d be surprised about the lack of operational security at all levels of most government agencies, especially the FBI and to some extent the CIA. Procedures are haphazardly enforced and things get lost all the time. The sheer number of laptops lost by government officials is staggering. And, of course, security measures are much more lax since the Cold War is over, whether it’s the right thing or not.

Frankly the only agency I think is extremely tight is the NSA; the Fort Meade boys play it very close to the chest at all times.

— Alan

I once had a coworker who worked at the Puzzle Palace years before. He wouldn’t say a word about what went on in there. But I couldn’t help but get the feeling that the place is Paranoia City.

I’m not sure if it’s Paranoia City, but you get the feeling that the security measures get enforced across the board and they drill it into you as soon as you start and I think it’s reminded of everything you go. And they lever let up.

Hmm, maybe it is Paranoia City…

— Alan

I believe you – I’ve been talking to agents in a SCIF about TS-level stuff and had their cellphones go off (“Uh, those aren’t allowed in here at all, much less turned on”) – but it still never ceases to amaze me. They make such a huge deal about it to outsiders, but you get the impression that they don’t really give a rip about it at all themselves.

Who exactly are you defending, counselor?

Saw it tonight and thought it was pretty good for this genre of thriller–if you’re looking for car chases or shootouts, look elsewhere.

Interestingly (and I picked up on it in the movie, and then when the credits rolled, I laughed out loud) I think the FBI agents played by Dennis Haystert and Gary Cole are named “Dan Plesac” and “Rich Garces”.

I assume those characters composites of a couple of folks, so therefore their characters are given fictional names…so they chose the Brewer lefthander and the portly Boston pitcher who earned the forum-famous nickname “El Guapo”.