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Running Time:
1 hour, 50 minutes

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
for violence, sexual content and language

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
A gripping and fascinating thriller with an outstanding performance by Chris Cooper.

Additional Info:
DVD Features: Over 18 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes; Breaching the truth: Get an insider's look at how Robert Hanssen's story was brought to the screen; Anantomy of a character - brought to you by Volkswagen: A powerful look at how Chris Cooper became Robert Hanssen for the film; "The Mole" as originally aired on Dateline 3/05/01: Uncover more intriguing facts about double agent Robert Hanssen in this in-depth profile; Feature commentary: With writer/director Billy Ray and former FBI operative Eric O'Neill.

Based on the true story of the capture of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, this film is intelligent, intense, and has really well-developed characters. Eric O'Neill, (Ryan Phillippe), is trying to make agent in the FBI's counter-terrorism unit. His attempts to get noticed, including writing a proposal to reorganize the Bureau's database, are met with indifference. Worse yet, one Sunday he's called into the office by Agent Burroughs (Laura Linney), who takes him off his counter-terrorism assignment and unexpectedly promotes him to work inside FBI headquarters for Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), a prominent Soviet analyst who's soon to retire. He's told that Hansen is a sexual deviant and must be watched carefully in order to save the Bureau from embarrassment.

Assigned to a desk job with the title of clerk, his initial encounters with Hanssen are less than promising. Initially Hansen is openly hostile, paranoid, and resentful, acknowledging O'Neill's existence only to belittle him. But eventually their relationship improves. While the Bureau thought it would be O'Neill's computer skills that would engage Hanssen, it's his Catholicism, casual though it might be, that causes him to become closer to his young assistant. One morning Hansen even shows up unannounced at O'Neill's home to take him to morning mass. He extends an invitation that is basically an order for O'Neill and his protestant, East German wife to come to Sunday mass and the family dinner that follows. It's only when O'Neill reports that Hanssen has been misunderstood and possibly innocent of the questions about him, that Burroughs tells him their suspicions. They believe that Hanssen has been selling state secrets to the Russians, but they need to catch him in the act, before they can stop him.

There is no surprise of course, because we all know how it turns out, but director Billy Ray wisely doesn't add a bunch of chase sequences and explosions, but simply sticks to the facts of the case. Still tension builds watching O'Neill and his superiors trying to outwit an agent whom they all acknowledge is their intellectual superior. In fact, the most gripping sequence is of Hanssen and O'Neil stuck in traffic, with O"Neill trying to keep Hansen in the car without giving away that if Hansen changes his plan it could blow the whole operation.

Chris Cooper gives an intense performance as a man who values loyalty despite the fact that he's betraying his county. While seeing conspiracies everywhere, he fails to recognize one transpiring right under his nose. Ryan Phillippe's earnestness makes a welcome counterpoint., and Laura Linney, as the third part of this espionage triangle is terrific, flinty and ferociously driven but playing with a deadly cold understatement that makes her almost as scary as Hansen.

The film plays out like a standard procedural, but it's considerably more. Detailing how Hanssen was brought down by the people he considered his inferiors, it is smart, thought-provoking, and more than a little unsettling.

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