"One might propose that I am either insanely brave, or…quite insane. I’d answer neither. I’d say, ‘insanely loyal.’ Take your pick. There’s insanity in all the answers."
- Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper)
At a glance: Beautiful prose and Chris Cooper’s captivating performance makes this almost poetic thinking person’s thriller captivating to watch, with the focus on the relationship and mental battle between an aspiring FBI agent and his seasoned boss.
Aspiring FBI trainee Eric (Ryan Phillippe) is assigned to work with and investigate Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), a highly successful veteran FBI agent who is suspected of being a sexual deviant. Although the agent (Laura Linney) who assigns him to the case assures him that Hanssen has been found with pornographic material on his computer and has been reported for questionable behavior by female co-workers, what Eric finds initially is an intelligent, brusque, conservative, and highly religious man who appears to value family and loyalty above all else. He gets even more confused when he finds out that Hanssen is due for mandatory retirement in two months anyway – so why is the bureau investigating him so vigorously? Eric is a sharp young man, but is he clever enough to match it with one of the most clever and intuitive agents in the bureau. Even if you are not patriotically involved in the cat and mouse story of catching an uber-traitor, you can still revel in the excellent prose, solid performances, and understated direction. Cooper is a powerful, captivating actor – he virtually stole Adaptation - and, working with a magnificent, sometimes poetic script, his screen presence radiates brightly. There is also excellent supporting work by Laura Linney and Caroline Dhavernas. What it lacks in razzle-dazzle and fast-paced editing, it more than makes up for with character study and dialogue. A small, quiet success – but perhaps a little somber for some palates.
"In the face of such a towering performance from Cooper, Phillippe keeps his end up while Laura Linney, as his handler, delivers the kind of turn we’ve come to expect from one of America’s finest movie actresses."
- Daily Mirror –UK
"A sombre game of cat-and-mouse. What it lacks in genuine tension it amply compensates in the understated performances of the two leads."
- Anthony Quinn (Independent)
"The script is intelligent and Ray's direction solid...Performances are top-notch, especially from Cooper...and the low-key cinematography and music serve the material well."
- Doris Toumarkine (Film Journal International)