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The Catcher Was a Spy

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The Catcher Was a Spy (2018)

June. 22,2018
| Drama Thriller War
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Major league baseball player, Moe Berg, a probably gay man lives a double life working for the Office of Strategic Services.


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On the surface, The Catcher was a Spy, appears to be a great idea for a film. It's based on the meticulously researched book of the same name, about Moe Berg (Paul Rudd), a Princeton graduate turned professional baseball player in the 1930s, who later became a spy for the OSS (the precursor of the CIA) in World War II. Director Ben Lewin called upon screenwriter Robert Rodat (known primarily for writing Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan) to flesh out Berg's character-a difficult job as Berg's life was shrouded in mystery. Quite a bit of it calls for speculation; perhaps an exceptional writer could have done something with the material, but Rodat is clearly not up to the task. Still I'm hesitant to criticize the writing here too much, as it's an insanely difficult subject to dramatize. Part of the problem is that Berg's relationships were superficial and never lasted for long periods of time. Hence, his interactions with various characters (baseball players, a girlfriend, a commanding officer for example) are short-lived, leading to a lack of character development. We feel particularly cheated in seeing little of Berg's baseball days. An opportunity is perhaps lost when Berg is shown taking the 1934 "goodwill" tour to Japan with baseball stars including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. I would have liked to have seen and heard from some of those luminaries which could have given the film a little more flavor. His "spying" while in Japan, shooting home movies of industrial areas in Tokyo, is certainly interesting but there's little excitement (at best his homosexuality is hinted at in his interactions with a Japanese professor who predicts the coming world conflict). The scene in which he fights back when a Boston Red Sox player assaults him for being "queer," felt forced. Did that really happen? He's attacked for merely being an intellectual and "possibly" being a homosexual? That's something he never admitted to so I found it to be unlikely that a teammate would jeopardize his own career by doing such a thing (especially when Berg was a popular figure in the media at the time). The bulk of the film concerns Berg joining the OSS and being given the assignment of trying to find out whether the German physicist Werner Heisenberg was close to developing an atomic bomb for the Nazis. The one "action" scene in the film takes place in Italy, where Berg is paired with another scientist, Samuel Goudsmit (Paul Giamatti), and both are almost killed when they come under fire while attempting to locate and interview an Italian confidant of Heisenberg. Again, the unlikely scene of the two intellectuals surviving hellish combat was not particularly convincing. The finale is wholly anti-climactic where Berg comes face to face with Heisenberg, but decides not to assassinate him as he concludes that the scientist is not close to developing a bomb for his German taskmasters. Of course it's fairly well known that Heisenberg survived the war, so Berg's machinations are not very exciting at all. Both the director and screenwriter hold up Berg as some kind of hero, but history suggests otherwise. After the war, Berg never worked another day in his life, primarily freeloading off his brother who finally kicked him out of his house-he then went to live with his sister for the rest of his days. There was also the suggestion that he may have been involved in touching young children inappropriately. The Catcher was a Spy proves to be a mildly interesting survey of Moe Berg's life, best summed up as a series of vignettes that shed little insight into the man's character. Paul Rudd is saddled with a script that only hints at aspects of Berg's personality and ultimately he fails to convince us that Berg was a heroic character.

The Couchpotatoes

You always watch a movie based on a true story with different eyes because it balances more to non-fiction than fiction. In this case the movie is about the former baseball player Morris "Moe" Berg that gets the assignment to go kill Heisenberg, the famous nuclear scientist, and this during world war II. It's an interesting story about Moe Berg, on how smart he actually was. Smart and mysterious. But the movie itself lacks a bit of action, certainly as it takes place during the war. So to me it was a bit disappointing. The cast was good though, just too bad the action parts were not as good as the acting. But it's an okay movie to watch once I guess.


I was looking forward to watching this film, until I watched it. I really enjoy period movies as they are a visualization of a time before my time. I did not see the complete movie. After a while I felt it was a bait-and-switch film that pushes a cultural agenda not disclosed when advertised that adds absolutely nothing to the story.If you read the history of the actual person this movie portrays, nowhere will you find him to be gay. Not even in gossip columns. Yet for some reason Hollywood decided to make this character gay. Doing so has absolutely nothing to do with the story. It did not make the film or the character or the film more interesting. It just seemed like the writers arbitrarily decided to do it (lie on the character) just because they wanted to versus having some logic behind this dcision.Hollywood decision makers bask in certain lifestyles, which is fine for them to live as they wish. Unfortunately they can't resist pushing their personal agendas into their work. I have many personal views both cultural and political. When it comes to my job, I leave my personal baggage at home as my personal choices. Hollywood is the opposite. They inject their views upon people whether the person or the audience wants it or not. Doing so costs them revenue due to low audience turnout (and harassment lawsuits) yet they do it anyway. Putting their personal, historically inaccurate, twist on the main character in this film did not add anything to it. As I watched the film and its agenda I lost interest and have not told anyone I know they should watch this film, which results in lost revenue for this film. I also hate how they try to reel the viewer in slowly and subtly, which makes me view them a s sneaky and underhanded. You have something to say, have the stones to say it versus all of the fake nuance. I would have preferred to simply enjoy the movie without the unnecessary and factually incorrect add-ons that do absolutely NOTHING for the plot or the film in any way. For me to turn off a period-based film says a lot as I have seen every black-and-white film that ever made to original broadcast or cable TV. I have also watched period films such as Road To Perdition, Public Enemies, 42, and Race.Once I realized what they were doing to this character knowing they were lying, I stopped watching the movie. Others may enjoy this film more than I, which is fine. Unlike this film, this is my attempt to openly explain what is behind my take on this film, versus feeding you a hidden agenda like some like to do. I hope I have been somewhat successful in this.Thank you for reading my review.


When a movie is made about a real life person, it should try to get the story accurate. It seems some criticize this movie because it doesn't pack the action of a James Bond movie. Well, then go watch a James Bond movie! The Bond series was authored by someone who worked in British intelligence (Ian Fleming) and the details of his actual career read much like that of Moe Berg.Real spying isn't action packed. It's not supposed to be. A good spy is supposed to blend in so as not to attract attention. I liked this story because it portrayed the action in that way, in the periphery, as part of the plan but not the core part of it.Period newspaper articles in the United States, and Moe Berg's biography openly say that Berg's all important mission in Switzerland was to ascertain the probability of Heisenberg's ability to create a Nazi atomic bomb, and if he determined there was a chance, to kill him.It would be illogical to put an OSS spy in vicinity of someone like Heisenberg without a plan to assassinate him. The only reason not to is the effect on the scientific community should history record that the United States assassinated Heisenberg despite reasonable knowledge he wasn't able to build the bomb.The decision point that Moe Berg faced was one of the most interesting of the entire war. Perhaps the strongest reason against assassination is that Heisenberg was one of several leading Nazi scientists working on the atomic bomb. Killing him likely would have had no more impact than leaving him alive would have. Ultimately, post-war analysis of the Nazi's work, by those who led the Manhattan Project, proved that the Nazi program never had a chance of success. This because they never advanced past the theoretical, and even much of their theory was proven wrong by the actual research and development of the American project. So, Berg made the right choice.Regardless of that, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was not lightly awarded, not even to OSS spies who operated in neutral territory nor behind the lines. This is another indication that Berg's mission was presented reasonably accurately in this movie, as it shows the extreme risks he took, even as he sought to stay behind the scenes. It took another Nazi spy to recognize Berg's mission.In terms of movies that showed the efforts of OSS espionage, this movie might be among the most accurate. If you want the big explosions and body count, again, go watch a Bond movie and enjoy the entertainment. If you want to know what true spy craft looks like, then this movie provides a very good insight.It's mainly brains, the ability to think on one's feet, sum up a complex situation quickly, be physically fit enough to meet the demands, and be willing to employ the violence when the mission calls for it, but in a way that the public does not see -- exactly as this movie shows in telling the story of a true American hero. Moe Berg perfectly fit all the OSS requirements and this movie showed why.