Wednesday, March 14, 2007


by jaydro
Last month when this was released, Brian marveled that a good studio picture like this would show up in February. I think I know why--it was slotted as a late-year Oscar-contention release, and then the powers-that-be realized they didn't have an Oscar contender and held it until February. I don't know this, but I guessed from my own reaction and the 2006 copyright notice.

Jackrabbit already said he found it "okay," and I have to agree or go even further to call it a disappointment and perhaps even pointless. I vaguely recall the CBS TV miniseries version of this from a few years ago, and I found it more compelling (and with perhaps an even higher-caliber cast than this film! William Hurt, Mary-Louise Parker, David Strathairn, Ron Silver, Peter Boyle...). That version rightly focused on master double-agent Robert Hanssen rather than on the guy the FBI assigned to keep tabs on Hanssen in the month before his takedown, played rather dully by Ryan Phillippe (as noted by Jackrabbit).

Watching the film I kept feeling like it should be building towards something, but it just kind of sat there, spooling away (and I was perhaps disappointed that this was one of two analog films at the all-digital multiplex where I saw this, complete with scratched-up print and popping analog Dolby Stereo--did they dump their film projector digital sound equipment? It felt like going back to the early '90's). The moments of suspense seemed contrived, though perhaps they were rendered in complete attention to what actually happened, but in every case I had no question about what was going to happen. There have been great films based on historical events for which I knew every detail depicted in the film, and yet I still felt suspense watching them. This was not one of those films.

Chris Cooper was good, Laura Linney was good, and it was nice to see Caroline Dhavernas (who I haven't seen since Wonderfalls) provide some presumably required Canadian content to this production while showing that she can do an East German accent about as well as Mira Furlan does a French accent on Lost. And Dennis Haysbert--when he appeared as a generic no-nonsense FBI agent, I almost laughed out loud. He is being typecast to death, isn't he? He's come a long way since he was the last-minute replacement for Eriq La Salle (who was replacing Denzel Washington) in Love Field.


Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

Agree with you about Dhavernas, whom I have a big crush on. She has a supporting role in Hollywoodland (as a blonde). The film is worth a rental.

3/15/2007 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Finally caught up with it, thought it was good-not-great. I had kind of an amusing conceptual problem with it, though: the Hanssen character is built up as some kind of super-awesome lie detector, but then he's willing to go along with any old crap that O'Neil can come up with. Maybe that's how it played out in real life, and Phillippe just couldn't pull it off convincingly. Or maybe the Ray had to invent a lot of this, and it was the best he could do. But overall, it was a fairly major conceptual problem.

But I thought Cooper was really, really outstanding. Linney was good but I think she's being typecast a lot, too, in this kind of role.

3/19/2007 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger jaydro said...

Yeah, as portrayed in the film it was hard to believe that Hanssen could have possibly been fooled by O'Neill, so he must have been deliberately deciding to let himself be caught while trying to make O'Neill a more devout Catholic--but somehow the film wanted us to go along with Hanssen being fooled by O'Neill's antics. Crikey.

3/19/2007 01:49:00 PM  

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