Friday, December 14, 2007

Secret Agent Man Stories

I just watched Breach and really enjoyed it. It's from a true story, about the most recent notorious FBI turncoat, Robert Hanssen, and how they caught him. Chris Cooper plays Hanssen and he's quite good at being creepy and mysterious and sympathetic at the same time. I really liked the way the story was told, because they didn't try to explain away Hanssen's reasons for selling secrets to the Soviets (as if it were a simple decision), they just focused more on his character and tried to show how complicated and confusing a person he was. Eric O'Neill, the operative who was assigned to spy on Hanssen and help catch him red-handed, actually quit the FBI not long after this case, even though he was young and relatively new to the FBI and was obviously going to be promoted to agent after the Hanssen case. Turns out he didn't like the life of lying to everyone around him, including his wife. The real O'Neill consulted on the movie and it shows in the consistent viewpoint of O'Neill in the film. There's no sudden jumping into Hanssen's head and suddenly knowing what makes him tick. O'Neill likes Hanssen, respects him, and finds it hard to swallow that Hanssen is betraying the company (the government) that he seems so adamant to protect.

I wasn't sure I would like this movie because I tried to watch The Good Shepherd recently and could not get through it. Too depressing. It's about one of the founding members of the CIA, and it just never lets up, how disconnected he becomes from his family, everyday life, and any personal happiness. I mean, maybe I'm a big baby and want happy endings, but I don't know, Breach didn't have a happy ending. It was sad, and yet it was a more well-crafted story and more compelling than Good Shepherd. Breach had interesting, complex characters, and Good Shepherd was just this relentlessly expressionless Matt Damon as agent Edward Wilson. Relentlessly expressionless doesn't look good on Matt Damon, I gotta see those teeth. He has too great a smile to waste.

This also reminds me of the TV series MI-5, which I loved at first, but then the whole premise of how hard it was for secret agents to have personal lives just killed it. Literally. At the end of one season (when I quit watching), the main agent in charge walks into the sea to drown himself, a la Edna Pontellier in Kate Chopin's The Awakening. Uh, okay, buh bye.

I miss Mrs. Peal and The Avengers. Camp, that's what we need, more camp.

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