Everyone Has Reversals

Story Lessons, Big and Small (Warning: Spoilers!)

August 12, 2007

It's People, People

Saw Breach last week, and thought it was a tight, exciting spy thriller. No mean feat, considering it's based on the true story of Robert Hanssen, the biggest betrayer of CIA secrets in recent memory.

As a story, it almost shouldn't work. From the outset, we know this guy's doing wrong. And we know he's going to get caught (the movie isn't coy; we open with the press conference announcing his capture). Even the manner of Hanssen's downfall is fairly pedestrian -- one last dead drop.

Breach works because Robert Hanssen is one interesting sonovabitch. The man is a jumble of contradictions: an asshole boss, and a mentor. A devout Roman Catholic family man who attends mass regularly, with a behind-closed-doors lust for Catherine Zeta-Jones and a fetish for sharing sex tapes of he and his wife in bed. He's a paranoid egomaniac... and a man who desperately wants to be able to trust.

This mucky puddle of goo that is Hanssen's character is the draw of the film, and the source of all tension within it.

Just goes to show: if you've got an interesting character, you've got the meat of a story.

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