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Master Spy: Robert Hanssen Story (2002)

William Hurt , Mary-Louise Parker , Lawrence Schiller  |  R |  DVD
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

Price: $38.88 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Product Details

  • Actors: William Hurt, Mary-Louise Parker, David Strathairn, Ron Silver, Hilit Pace
  • Directors: Lawrence Schiller
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: May 20, 2003
  • Run Time: 200 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008K7AU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,971 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Master Spy: Robert Hanssen Story" on IMDb

Special Features

  • 7 deleted scenes with optional director's commentary
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The very subject of spying provokes a perverse response: part revulsion, part riveted fascination. So does this spellbinding docu-drama about the tortured life led and lies told by Robert Hanssen, the FBI special agent who sold secret government documents to KGB officers. Literary legend Norman Mailer wrote a highly literate script for the all-star cast (including William Hurt, Ron Silver and Peter Boyle) that brings Hanssen, his colleagues and family members convincingly to life. Shot on location in Moscow, Hong Kong, Hawaii and Washington, DC, all adding authenticity to this disturbing account. 3 hours 20 min. on 1 DVD.

Here's a different kind of spy: awkward, frosty, supremely intelligent, deeply religious. As brilliantly acted by a perfectly cast William Hurt, this is Robert Hanssen, a respected FBI man who sold information to the Soviets for 20 years. In Norman Mailer's incisive script for this TV movie, Hanssen turns to spying for his own neurotic reasons: to out-earn his domineering father, to show up the FBI bosses who continually pass him over, and maybe to dispel the boredom of the arrogant. A kinky interest in voyeurism and a platonic friendship with a stripper are also part of the mix (which brings in nudity not part of the broadcast version). The stripper is played by the touching Hilit Pace, while Mary Louise Parker is fine as Hanssen's clueless wife. Production values are TV-utilitarian, but Mailer's keen psychological probing and Hurt's unwavering chilliness make Master Spy an absorbing experience. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Guesswork on a Master Mind July 27, 2004
This is one of the best real-life story adapted movie I've seen. William Hurt is amazing in portraying the enigmatic Hanssen. His performance saved this film from its lack of depth and exciting plots beneath the obvious. Hanssen's motivation for his betrayals to everyone he loves is never elaborated, despite all the internal dialogues and rationalization. Though awkward at socialing and eerie in outlook, highly intelligent Hanssen made his moves with intention and calculation to understand struggling souls like himself under surreal yet intriguing circumstances. Studying his best friend, a strip dancer and intelligence officers from both camps, in depth and in person, must have given him great joy and revelation on himself, a modern-day Faust trying to figure out meanings of his own bewildering existence while finding a way to salvation. Writer Mailer and Director Schiller had obvious done their homework and interviewed key people related to Hanssen which gave certain degree of reality to the scrip. But I still feel somewhat disappointed about the fragmented profile they demonstrated via this movie. Maybe Norman Mailer is just getting old and therefore relies too much on his insights while ignoring the relevant details which would have enriched the story so much more.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a good companion DVD to "Breach" December 3, 2008
This is a good companion DVD to "Breach." Whereas "Breach" focuses on how Hanssen was caught, "Master Spy" shows exactly what Hanssen did and suggests some of the reasons why he may have done it.(Unlike "Breach," "Master Spy" was made with the cooperation of some of Hanssen's family members.)The acting is uniformly good and the story gives viewers some interesting insights into Hanssen's possible motivations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Fair Look at the Hanssen Case July 30, 2008
Director Lawrence Schiller has a definite style to his films: true-life stories (like the JFK assassination and the O.J. case) with a no-nonsense re-telling of the story as he understands it. Master Spy is in that mold. Robert Phillip Hanssen is presented as an FBI official struggling to have his intellect recognized, and he succumbs to the lure of espionage for the Soviets. For Hanssen, it was partly for money; but more important, he wanted to be the cleverest spy ever. Knowing that others before him (like CIA's Aldrich Hazen Ames) had been caught when Soviet intelligence officers defected to the US or became "agents-in-place," Hanssen decided to never let them know his real identity. (He may have slipped-up and been IDed when he called the KGB from a phone booth they were watching.) He started feeding them fairly low-level stuff, but soon graduated to feeding them everything he could get his hands on. Beyond betraying many Soviets who were working for Western intelligence, he betrayed a secret FBI tunnel under the new Soviet Embassy in Washington.

The film is good in showing Hanssen's actions, but weak in showing his motivations. Another annoying point: One of the most interesting aspects of the case is how he was caught: Knowing the evidence showed there was a mole in US intelligence, the FBI (and later CIA) "leaked" to both current and former KGB/SVR officers that they were willing to pay handsomely for the identity of "Ramon," Hanssen's chosen code name. Sure enough, a post-KGB officer took the bait and turned over the entire KGB file on Ramon. The first gem it contained was a recording of the fatal phone call, and FBI officers realized in horror that it was their colleague. The file also contained a plastic trash bag Ramon had used to package FBI documents years before.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting movie November 2, 2006
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Enjoyed this movie very much, especially since it was a true

story, Some parts were hard to believe, but very interesting.
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Fantastic book, fascinating subject, great author, well-written... 5 stars all the way around. My personal challenge was to find one redeeming trait for Hanssen.
He betrayed his country to the max, was the worst husband to a devoted wife and an embarrassment to the Opus Dei. Reluctantly, I am giving him the benefit (why I don't know) that he could have been a good father. I have met and read about a few scumbags in my time, but I wrack my brain to think of anybody who comes even close to beating him in that department. In ancient times, the proper punishment for this loser would be for him to be publicly stoned. And even that would be too good for him.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great movie May 12, 2014
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i loved it great movie had a report onit and it touch stuff that wasnt in the movie breach
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3.0 out of 5 stars Ok movie July 24, 2013
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I saw another actor in the same role that I preferred but to each his own with this one. The plot moved slow in spots ok if your into slow moving movies that drag out the plot.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Shillers ego ruined this movie April 29, 2013
By maylane
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All actors except Pace were very good. I could not believe how much I had to hear about the strippers life story...oops wrong movie,especally with a poor actor. As I understand it Robert Hanssen did see this movie and thought it was a howl. Now I will tell you why, Mr Schiller made 'friends' with the important parties. He brags about being able to get Hanssens best friend to talk to him, and then writes his(Jacks) version. Then gets his kids(Roberts) to talk to him with their version(of which they were confering with Robert)oh boy another slanted view. Next we get the life story of the stripper!!! oh yes I am sooooo interested in that!!!! And he brags about sending these people the script and tell you how up front he was,nothing to hide, Yes it was their SLANT,how stupid.
At no time did it occur to him that the relationship between Robert and Jack was a homosexual relationship,without touching. They shared sex. By having Jack watch him have sex,he could imagine he was with Jack. If Robert could have had Jack have sex with his wife he could have really gotten off,thinking about Jack. This acually is very clear what his strange sexual fantasies were all about,but Schiller was too busy telling you who he had talked to,to think for himself.
He will tell you what a BIG star Pace was going to be,how he discovered her,he forgot to give her acting lessons.
So if you want to watch a movie with true facts but slanted to everyones view point but the SPY.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the quality of Breach
I've seen both Breach and Master Spy - 2 movies about the same case/event. I found Breach to be more realistic in terms of who the principals were and what their motivations. Read more
Published 17 months ago by gigharborguy
3.0 out of 5 stars Good acting. Bad directing but watchable
The actors were quite good in their roles (although Bonnie's character was a bit overboard on tantrums). The movie is quite watchable despite the gratuitous director & writer. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Midge
2.0 out of 5 stars Well done, but out of date
It's an interesting tale about the F.B.I. spy, Robert Hanssen; nevertheless, overtaken by events.

A young F.B.I. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Cuddlepie
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting story
Hanssen was perhaps the most destructive traitor in recent years. As a senior FBI official, he had access to closely held secrets and he sold many of them to the Russians. Read more
Published on August 10, 2011 by Tony Lesce
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful Companion Piece
This film has its faults but is a useful companion piece to "Breach," the far superior production. As other reviewers say, "Master Spy" does seem to dwell on the titillating... Read more
Published on July 10, 2011 by James T. Wheeler
1.0 out of 5 stars The disfunction of a seethingly deranged mind.....Norman Mailer
MASTER SPY: THE ROBERT HANSSEN STORY( 2003) Directed by Lawrence Schiller. "Script" by Norman Mailer. Read more
Published on May 13, 2010 by The Mysterious Traveler
1.0 out of 5 stars PITIFULLY BAD
This movie is offensive. The acting is terrible, and the movie spends an inordinate amount of time on Hanseen's alleged sexual perversion. Read more
Published on November 21, 2006 by J. Kehoe
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