I’m not sure how it happened, because it wasn’t by design, but in the last three weeks or so I’ve seen all or parts of six of Chris Cooper’s movies: The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Identity (we rented the first two before going to the theater to see the third), Breach, October Sky and American Beauty. In doing so I’ve found a new appreciation for Cooper’s talent on the screen.
“Breach” and “October Sky” are two of his best films; he has a minor role in the Bourne trilogy, and a nicely-structured performance in “American Beauty,” which won a ton of awards but is decidedly not family-friendly material.
I didn’t really appreciate his talents until seeing him in “Breach” last week, a few days after re-watching “October Sky,” one of his first star turns. Cooper isn’t my favorite actor (right now that would probably be Paul Giamatti, who was superb in the recent “The Illusionist”) but he has a range that’s pretty amazing and a level of believability that few actors possess. His portrayal of FBI spy Robert Hanssen in “Breach” is amazing. Cooper is a character actor who has ended up playing plenty of roles related to the military or the government, but he’s also stretched himself into the role of an eccentric horse trainer (“Seabiscuit”), affable rancher (“The Horse Whisperer”) and an award-winning role as an orchid dealer in “Adaptation,” which has the distinction of being one of the very worst movies I’ve ever seen.
Even though he’s been in a couple of films I intensely disliked, you should check out his other films – particularly “Breach.” Watch it again if you’ve seen it once. Ryan Phillippe is also good in the fact-based story of Hanssen, the worst spy in American history.