Is Ryan Phillippe (pictured, left) incapable of emoting, or does he just choose roles like Eric O’Neill, the spy-in-training charged with bringing down the worst traitor in US history, double agent Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper, right), that require him not to? Being one of the few people who saw the film Playing by Heart, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Regardless of the answer, most critics agree that his inaccessibility serves him well here. OhmyNews‘ Brian Orndorf offers a nice backhanded compliment: “Phillippe’s inherent stillborn emotional range finds a home in Eric’s bewilderment and continuous professional perspiration, and he makes a strong center of conscience for the picture, even when Cooper acts circles around him.” As does the Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips: “The verdict on Phillippe, lately seen on screen in Flags of Our Fathers, is still out; half the time in Breach, his opaque, untrustworthy quality works for the role and the film. The other half of the time you’re too aware of the calculated, studied neutrality.”
addCredit(“Breach: Michael Gibson”)
Praise for Cooper’s performance, meanwhile, is extremely solid. Andcolorful. Phillips goes the poetic route, saying, “His eyes are two ofthe most interesting in contemporary film. Owing to both biology anddramatic training, Cooper — a modern-day knight of the woefulcountenance… can shoot a fellow actor a look that suggests two thingsat once. One is the look of the hunter, someone sniffing out a lie. Theother is the look of the hunted, someone afraid of being found out.”Just as flowery is the Austin Chronicle‘sJosh Rosenblatt, who asks, “Is there an actor working today who looksmore spent than Chris Cooper? With his rumpled demeanor and those giantbags under his eyes, the man looks perpetually tired. Tired of his lotin life, tired of all those slings and arrows, but most of all, tiredof knowing he’s smarter than everyone else in the room.” Others manageto keep the lovefest short and sweet: Montreal Film Journal‘sKevin N. Laforest says, “Cooper is amazing as always: amusingly grumpy,increasingly creepy and, ultimately, oddly affecting,” while the Naperville Sun‘s Josh Larsen sums him up as “eerie and oily.”
I’m not sure why I find this statement from The Hollywood Reporter‘s Kirk Honeycutt a bit offensive, but I do: “With this solid cast, Breachshould appeal strongly to male adults and possibly beyond if givenstrong marketing that emphasizes the true nature of these crimes andbetrayals.” I guess adult women can’t be bothered to follow a talkythriller?