Volume 76, Number 40 | February 28 - March 6, 2007

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“Breach” (+)

A superb movie. The acting is brilliant and the story fascinating. It is based on a true episode involving what is described as the greatest incident of traitorous conduct ever committed by an FBI agent. The agent, Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), is depicted as a curmudgeon, irritated with the FBI’s bureaucracy. He is suspected of having betrayed the U.S. and causing the deaths of several Soviet agents who had turned and were helping the U.S. Their names were given to the Soviet authorities by Hanssen, along with information that compromised the FBI and caused an ultimate loss of billions in technology and secrets.

When the movie opens, the FBI suspects Hanssen but wants to prove its case by catching him in the act. To do that it assigns Eric O’Neill (Ryan Phillippe), who wants to become an FBI agent, to serve as Hanssen’s clerk and look for the needed evidence. Interestingly, the most important part of Hanssen’s life is his religion. He is an observant Catholic. Eric O’Neill is less so. Their Catholicism plays a major part in their lives. What is also noteworthy is that the film mocks their Catholicism. The filmmakers could never have treated Judaism or Islam in the same mocking way and have gotten away without a hue and cry and pickets.  This proves once again that while we’ve reached the point where it is touching the third rail to deride a host of groups — Jews, blacks, gays, women — it is still, regrettably, acceptable to mock Catholicism.

Nevertheless, having noted that failure, I still recommend the film for its suspense and pleasure. One missing string in the tightly-woven plot is that we never learn why Hanssen committed treason, at least I didn’t.

The storyline basically involves the two people — the spy and the clerk. A third far lesser figure is Kate Burroughs (Laura Linney) who is the FBI agent in charge of O’Neill. She too is excellent in her role with some marvelous lines describing herself to the young clerk.

The story is first rate and I enjoyed it.  The only thing about docudramas is that you don’t know which incidents are factual and which are fictional.

“Antibodies” (+)

This is a version of Hannibal Lecter (“The Silence of the Lambs”) told German style. It is extremely well done, different of course, but just as interesting and tension filled.

The story opens in a small German town and centers on a small-town cop who wants to solve the murder of a 12-year-old girl. She had been sliced up pretty badly and sexually attacked. At the very opening of the movie, we see a serial killer, Gabriel Engel (Andre Hennicke), at work in another city. He is drawing blood from a young girl from who is still alive. A neighbor calls the police when she hears screams coming from the apartment, and the cops arrive and capture him. Engel refuses to cooperate with the city cops and asks that they bring to his cell the small-town cop, Michael Martens (Wotan Wilke Mohring).

Officer Martens arrives and we get to know him quite well. He is married and has a 13-year-old son and a younger daughter. We learn that his father-in-law dislikes him intensely and engages in a cruel act against Michael’s hunting dog. Martens is a religious Catholic and appears to be very wholesome and a man of integrity. During their discussions, the serial killer asks Martens shocking questions about his sex life.

The movie has a steady pace with constant surprises, including Michael having a tryst with another woman while in the big city. The ending has a mythic quality that suits it just fine. “Antibodies” is an off-beat film and well worth seeing. (In German, with English subtitles). It is playing at the Cinema Village on East 12th Street between Fifth Avenue and University Place.

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