Breach – Observations on Vocation and Relationships by: Blaine Grimes

Posted: July 17, 2014 by jperritt in Action, Thriller
Tags: , , , ,

Breach-movie-posterI am a huge fan of espionage films. To be more precise, I am a sucker for a particular sub-genre: the spy drama. While Daniel Craig’s Bond movies are enjoyable, and the Bourne trilogy is a personal favorite, my heart is with George Smiley (shame on you if you don’t know who he is) and company. Car chases and brilliantly choreographed fight scenes may be fun, but it’s the intellectual game of cat-and-mouse–counter-espionage, double agents, and things of the like–that really make the genre shine. So, when I sat down to watch Breach, I thought I knew what to expect. However, as I watched and thought, I found the movie confronting me in some very unexpected ways. It made me think about vocation and relationships.

Breach tells the true story of Eric O’Neill (Ryan Phillippe), an aspiring  FBI agent who is sent undercover to catch suspected agency mole Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper). In order to catch Hanssen, O’Neill must leave his current post—the high-profile tracking and monitoring of potential national security threats—and take an ostensibly boring and thankless desk job as Hanssen’s personal assistant. O’Neill is told to send daily reports detailing Hanssen’s activities. And while O’Neill believes this assignment is a hinderance to his professional aspiration of becoming an agent, he does what is asked, typing out meticulous reports day after day. In addition to the low-profile assignment, O’Neill has to put up with Hanssen’s overbearing personality. Later in the film, a weary and bored O’Neill is informed of the true nature of his assignment. He is told that Hanssen is the biggest traitor in U.S. history, and that they are trying to build a case against him. O’Neill works with a renewed vigor. The problem is that the assignment forces him to keep odd hours and be on call all at all times of the day, which creates friction between O’Neill and his wife Juliana (Caroline Dhavernas).  Juliana is frustrated by Eric’s lack of attention, and she fears for his safety. Eric becomes preoccupied and dismissive. The two begin to fight on a regular basis. This marital conflict, I believe, is one thing that makes Breach work as a narrative. We are situated somewhere between Eric and Juliana; we desperately want to see Hanssen captured, but we also want to see the O’Neill’s marriage healed. These central conflicts compel us to think and care about the principal characters.

On a personal level, Breach made me think about my calling as an employee and as a husband. First, Breach made me reflect on the fact that my job is more than a source of income; it is a vocation, a calling from God. In the daily grind and rush, I forget this truth far too often. It is easy to see a job as just another set of tasks to be completed, when it is really an opportunity to bring glory to Christ. When I go to work, I am a reflection of God, who created the cosmos, who is constantly working his sovereign will. The second thing Breach spurred me to reflect on is my calling as a husband. I know that like Eric O’Neill, I have a natural, sinful tendency to get caught up in my work at the expense of my relationship with my wife (and I’m quite sure that I am not alone in this regard). As I sat and watched the conflict between husband and wife unfold in Breach I was reminded of my high calling as a husband–a reminder I need daily. Breach shows that being good at your job is a very good thing, but that doing so to the neglect of your relationships is vanity.

This point is driven home near the film’s end [spoiler alert], where O’Neill is offered a position as an agent. He is told that his wife will learn to adjust. However, O’Neill has seen the danger and is not willing to let his wife play second fiddle; he rejects the offer and resigns.  O’Neill loves his wife more than he does his job. He wants to be a good husband and a good worker. In this, Breach provides at least one instance in which it would not be a bad thing for life to imitate art.

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