Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Alternate Best Actor 2007: Chris Cooper in Breach

Chris Cooper did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Robert Hanssen in Breach.

Breach is a film bolstered by the interesting nature of the true story it is based on, although it perhaps relies on a bit too many cliches in its dramatization, as well as suffers from an inadequate lead performance by Ryan Phillippe as Eric O'Neill. The man trying to find the evidence needed to convict an F.B.I. agent who has been spying for Russia.

Chris Cooper plays the man Robert Hanssen who were are first introduced to after Eric has been assigned to monitor him while initially only being told that Hanssen is a sexual deviant. Hanssen first makes his entrance as essentially the ultimate ball buster, he even literally threatens Eric with such an act when Eric fails to covertly exit Hanssen's office. Cooper makes everything you'd want Hanssen in this regard as in the office scenes he carries a constant intensity, as though he hates everything about the job, and seems to hate most everything. Cooper is particularly successful in realizes the unabashed nature of Hanssen's attitude towards people. There is not a hint of respect in Cooper's eyes dresses down Eric on their first meeting, and it seems as though he might be ready to start beating the man at any moment. Although Hanssen never does physically accost Eric during the film, that initial threat is made authentic through Cooper's performance.

What Cooper does is carry a realistic menace through the man, because he so effectively gets across the style of a man who is best described as a hard ass. It should be noted that Cooper makes much of the film simply through his performance. Cooper is indeed quite entertaining here in portraying just how crude and cruel Hanssen personal manner can be. Cooper though enjoyable does not overplay his hand in this regard to the point of making Hanssen a caricature of this sort of man. That's not the case as Cooper always manages to attach this behavior with something deeper within Hanssen. In his most overt behavior Cooper does seem to allude a certain effort in Hanssen's behavior. This is not that it is false, the rage towards certain things in life and at work are all too real, but it is more than would be natural for a man. Cooper portrays it partially an specific act of Hanssen attempting to hold some sort of dominance as he sees himself in a lower position, but just as much a instinctual behavior brought upon by the same sort of treatment from his father.

Cooper's performance simply as the ultimate hard ass is quite fascinating as even in this he creates a certain duplicity as he shows the man's behavior as both authentic and artificial. Cooper splices in a third facet into Hanssen's anger which is oddly enough fear. Cooper brings an undercurrent of vulnerability even within his very commanding presence. Cooper alludes with this a subtle paranoia into Hanssen's personality suggesting that he is partially aware of the forces closing in around him, but not fully to the point that he can be sure of it. Cooper builds upon this especially well through the progress of the film as the investigation closes closer in on Hanssen, and his falls seems almost inevitible. Although I'd say the film overplays this a tad in giving a little too explosive of a scene, where Hanssen interrogates Eric at gunpoint about his suspicions. Even if the scene is perhaps slightly excessive Cooper is on mark in portraying Hanssen near the end of his breaking point, as he presents that the paranoia finally overwhelms the rest of his personality.

That is not all there is to Cooper's performance though and one of the most remarkable elements of his work here is that he manages to make Hanssen likable to a certain extent. There is a charisma Cooper realizes through the personality of this man who seems to have such strong convictions. When Hanssen speaks of his religion there is a genuine enthusiasm Cooper brings to the subject, even if there is a certain pompousness at times towards it as well, Cooper manages to make Hanssen a virtuous man, even though he is not in reality one. Cooper even exudes just a bit of warmth in the moments where Hanssen attempts to encourage Eric's own faith, earning it to the point that he does portray Hanssen's faith real though horribly hypocritical. His less appealing beliefs are not sugar coated after all, and Hanssen's double life is all too real. Cooper manages to make Eric's initial respect for him completely believable thought by creating the appeal of this man who appears to do things his own way without exception, the problem being that this is too true.

Hanssen is of course the spy as well as even the sexual deviant who makes his own sex tapes without his wife's knowledge. The film never quite gives us the worst side of Hanssen because it rarely leaves Eric's perspective, and the most we get is a flashback montage of Hanssen's illicit activities. Cooper does not seem limited by this, as his performance allows one to see the evil within the man's public personality. There is always a certain darkness that Cooper suggests is in the man, so whenever something is revealed it does not seem odd at all. What Cooper does so well is suggest Hanssen to basically be a mess of a man who happens to carry himself in a precise way. Much of his life is illogical, but that's merely because it's his way always his way, which is what Cooper always suggests is Hanssen's greatest passion. Even in capture Cooper effectively keeps Hanssen as the same sort of man. He portrays his surrender as a quiet resignation, but still carries a certain pride in himself as he attempts to try to boast about having it his way. Cooper though is particularly moving in his final short moment where he shows a despondent Hanssen who has finally suffered from the weight of reality. It's a strong performance that manages to elevate the material and Cooper always remains compelling even when the film falters.

53 comments:

Matt Mustin said...

I saw this film a long time ago, when I was pretty young (too young to completley understand it, probably) so I don't remember much of it, but I remember Cooper being good.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

To answer your question on the previous thread concerning the No Country cast, I would consider Bardem and Brolin lead and Jones on the border to swing either way. But that's just me with my loose definition of lead.

Matt Mustin said...

I think Jones is almost definitely supporting, and I think Bardem is too, but I really don't know. Brolin I think is definitely lead.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

If anything I'd say Bardem is more lead than Brolin.

luke higham said...

Louis: Ratings & Thoughts on the rest of the cast.

Brolin - Lead
Bardem - Supporting, although on the border.
Jones - Supporting

Matt Mustin said...

The more I think about it, the more I realize Brolin is actually just a MacGuffin for Bardem's character. So I guess I have to move him over to lead.

luke higham said...

I haven't seen the film for 3-4 years, but come to think of it, Bardem's by far and away the more overwhelming presence, so I'll place him in Lead as well.

luke higham said...

If Bardem's placed in lead, I hope it doesn't affect his rating by any means.

Matt Mustin said...

I'll still keep Jones in supporting though. Don't know why. Maybe a rewatch would change my mind.

Michael McCarthy said...

I'd vote for putting them all in supporting. Bardem's the closest to being lead I guess but the film seems create such a distance with his scenes that I never quite felt that he was leading the story.

Michael Patison said...

I'd put them all in supporting. But then again, it's been several years since I last saw it (like 4 or 5).

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

It's been a good seven years since I saw it, though my memory of it is sharp. In general it's rare for me to forget a movie, even ones I don't like.

Louis Morgan said...

I'm leaning towards supporting. If you watch the film the story cuts between all three for almost the entirety of the film except the guy who is often touted as the sole lead. I'm fine with three leads, but I'm leaning towards supporting because of Woody Harrelson's character. The film shifts to his perspective during his appearances, making it so the other three are not the sole focus or the film either.

Luke:

I'll answer your other question a little later.

Matt Mustin said...

Damnit, now I'm even more unsure of placement of the No Country guys. I'll leave 'em as is until I rewatch it.

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Michael Patison said...

I'm going to change my predictions because neither of the people my change concerns has been reviewed yet.
Group 1:
1. Brad Pitt
2. Chris Cooper
3. Joaquin Phoenix
4. Cillian Murphy
5. Lau Ching-Wan

Group 2:
1. John C. Reilly
2. Philip Seymour Hoffman
3. Christian Bale
4. Casey Affleck
5. James McAvoy

Michael Patison said...

Also, I'm very intrigued to discover where Mortensen will fall among all of the 4.5s we expect to see.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Louis: The Bond thing sounds good, I'll probably do that somewhere down the line.

Michael Patison said...

Also, I'm very intrigued to discover where Mortensen will fall among all of the 4.5s we expect to see.

I 100% with every single aspect of this review: his performance, his rating, and your assessment of the film as a whole. Phillippe is, as always, horribly bland, and Billy Ray's writing and direction are both rather pedestrian. The movie is certainly watchable and even rather interesting, even fascinating, at times, but I wouldn't say it's anything more than just good. There are too many banal scenes that take away from its handful of great qualities.

RatedRStar said...

I can remember when Viggo was the original win for 2007, and I remember it being changed, I am so disappointed that Viggo has only received one Oscar nomination.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: I think Louis switched positions in the ranking, way back when, he reviewed Day-Lewis in Lincoln.

RatedRStar said...

I mean I am cool with Day Lewis winning for TWBB, I think he is great, I think many of those recent win changes have been great, like James Cagney for Angels With Dirty Faces for example.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: You know me, I'm usually very humble/gracious, when it comes to Louis's winners and I seem to think, I'm the only one, who doesn't really care who wins, as long as some of my favourite performances get a 5 star rating. (Bruno Ganz in Downfall, Tom Hardy in Bronson, Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood etc.)

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Ratings, matter far more to me than the rankings.

Michael McCarthy said...

So if people are still changing their predictions I'll go ahead and adjust mine.

1. Joaquin Phoenix
2. Lau Ching Wan
3. Chris Cooper
4. Brad Pitt
5. Cillian Murphy

luke higham said...

1. Hoffman
2. Affleck
3. Bale
4. Reilly
5. McAvoy

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: This is fairly off topic, but what's your ranking for all of the Assassin's Creed games that you've played, with your thoughts on them as well.

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: I have owned 4 Ass Creed games, from Best to Worst

Assasins Creed IV ( Easily the best game, which has the prettiest locations, a fairly likable set of characters, as well as a story which doesnt take itself too seriously, it is so relaxing just casually taking a ship on a beautiful voyage)

Assassins Creed II (I found this to be an enjoyable revenge game with a good pace and still very good game mechanics)

Assassins Creed (I remember loving the graphics and the setting, but I think the story is rather dull with some very dull performances, the gameplay is still decent enough but it was improved in the sequels)

Asssasins Creed III (I really didn't like this game at all, I found both main characters completely dull and unlikable, the location is also dull with very few platforming except jumping from trees, just an underwhelming experience)

luke higham said...

RatedRStar & GDSAO: Of the years remaining, plus the bonus rounds, which 5 Lead and Supporting Performances, are you most hoping to receive a 5 from Louis.

Mine are:
Lead
Tom Courtenay in The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner
James Mason in Lolita
Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt/Valhalla Rising
Oliver Reed in The Devils
Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man

Supporting
Stephen Boyd in Ben-Hur
Kevin Spacey in Seven
John Carroll Lynch in Zodiac
Sean Connery in The Last Crusade (Although unknowingly to most, he's given it away already)
Robert Ryan in Billy Budd

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Mine are:
Lead
Tom Courtenay in The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner
James Mason in Lolita
James Stewart in The Shop Around the Corner
Michael Redgrave in The Browning Version
Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man
Trevor Howard (for anything)

Supporting
Stephen Boyd in Ben-Hur
Kevin Spacey in Seven
Anthony Quayle in Lawrence of Arabia
Ralph Richardson in Four Feathers
John Carroll Lynch in Zodiac
Sean Connery in The Last Crusade
Robert Ryan in Billy Budd

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Ryan Phillippe - 2(Phillipe's a bland performer to begin with, which is really problematic when needing to play the straight man against Cooper's dominating performance. His character did not need to be overshadowed as he is, but Phillippe plays the whole spy aspect in such an obvious way that's hard to believe that Hanssen would not see through him in a second. It's only made worse by his very emotional moments where he is simply underwhelming taking away much of the potential from those scenes)

Linney - 2.5(She's fine actually in a part that does her no favors, but at the same time I've seen exposition handled in a more interesting way than this)

Dhavernas - 2(She's also not helped by her character, but I think she may be part of the problem in making her such a one note character. She seems perpetually upset which makes it so there's no real build up for her behavior, and makes any scene with her unfortunately more tiresome than anything)

Haysbert - 2.5(Like Linney he's fine but nothing special in his exposition delivery)

Quinlan - 2.5(I actually think she's pretty good but used in a way that prevents her from making any sort of real impact on the film)

Davison - 2.5(He's also good but like Quinlan the film seems to purposefully mute any impact he might make)

Michael McCarthy said...

So I finally saw Mad Max and I gotta say, it's gonna take a real powerhouse performance to unseat Nicholas Hoult as my Best Supporting Actor of the year.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, what's your rating and thoughts on Jeff Bridges in Iron Man?

luke higham said...

Louis: Your Top 5 Female Lead & Supporting Performances from 2000, with ratings as well.

I'm asking this, because I'm currently documenting all of your 5s & 4.5s.

I'll be asking this question again and again, during the next 4-5 months for other years such as '91, '93, '02 and '05, by the time you finish the alternates.

Anonymous said...

You rated Saoirse Ronan 2.5 in Atonement which I agree with. How would you rank that year's supporting actress category Louis?

My ranking: Dee-3, Ronan - 4.5, Ryan - 4.5, Blanchett - 5, Swinton - 5. The category is particularly strong except for Dee.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: It was a 4.5 for Ronan.

luke higham said...

Tomorrowland Ratings
Robertson - 3
Clooney - 3
Cassidy - 3
Laurie - 2.5

luke higham said...

Tomorrowland was fine for the first two thirds, but it became rather ridiculous during the last act. I felt nothing but emptiness from the experience and the execution of its ideas & themes felt somewhat lacking.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Lindelof is my mortal nemesis. Not sure if I even want to see Tomorrowland despite my love for all four of Brad Bord's previous films.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

*Bird

luke higham said...

KoooK160: When it comes to Brad Bird, It was a disappointment and it saddens me to say that, since I loved his last three films and I thought The Iron Giant was really good as well. I will admit that Clooney for once, (The American excepted) is actually good here and was fairly effective in his last emotional scene.

Matt Mustin said...

You know, Robert you can blame Lindelof for Prometheus all you want, but keep in mind that every aspect of that film was completely controlled by Ridley Scott, including the script.

luke higham said...

Matt Mustin: Apologies, for that, but I was actually jumping on Robert's Bandwagon, since I'm still a bit hurt by Prometheus's overall quality, although I did like the visuals and the performances of Fassbender and Rapace.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Oh don't get me wrong, I most certainly blame Scott as well for that travesty.

luke higham said...

Can we agree, that Scott's past it now, In my personal opinion, he hasn't made a really good film since Kingdom Of Heaven (Director's Cut).

Matt Mustin said...

I liked The Counselor.

luke higham said...

Matt Mustin: I liked it just fine, although that's just because I'm a fan of Fassbender and Bardem, but Exodus, despite it's visual flair and a solid enough performance from Bale, solidified my belief that he is past it.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm not even big on some of his acclaimed films.

Matt Mustin said...

The only one of his movies I really, truly love is Alien.

luke higham said...

Matt Mustin: I second that.

luke higham said...

The Duellists and Blade Runner are great too. I do have a slight fondness for Thelma & Louise and Gladiator as well.

luke higham said...

Matt Mustin: No, I'm sure most, if not everyone on this blog have. =)

Louis Morgan said...

Matt:

Bridges - 3(It's not a great part but I would say he's probably one of the most menacing Marvel villains, even if that's not saying a lot. He's good in doing the false friend though, and the scene where he steals the heart from Tony is rather chilling. Shame once he gets into the suite he kinda loses any of that. It's not his fault though)

Anonymous:

1. Blanchett
2. Swinton
3. Ronan
4. Ryan
5. Dee (She's actually as good someone probably could be in that role though)

Luke:

Actress:

1. Michelle Yeoh - Crouching Tiger... 4.5
2. Zhang Ziyi - Crouching Tiger.... - 4.5
3. Maggie Cheung - In the Mood For Love - 4

(That's all I got at the moment)

Supporting Actress:

1. Harriet Sansom Harris - Memento
2. Marcia Gay Harden - Pollock
3. Carrie Anne Moss - Memento
4. Ko Shibasaki - Battle Royale - 4
5. Holly Hunter - Oh Brother Where Art Thou - 3.5