Saturday, July 07, 2018

The Catcher Was a Spy (2018)

Interesting that this subject matter got the greenlight to be made into a film. It is hard to see what they thought the audience would be considering that it is a true story about someone who very few people can recall from decades ago. His name was Moe Berg. A Jewish ballplayer from 1923 to 1939 (the last six with the Red Sox) who was never more than a back-up catcher in all those years except for 1929 when he played 107 games. He hit 6 home runs. In his entire career. He was also a genius. He could speak 10 languages; 7 of them fluently. He graduated from Princeton. He appeared on radio quiz shows and cleaned everyone's clocks.

The war came along and he wanted to get involved though he was nearly 40. Because of his languages he was accepted into the OSS (pre-CIA) and performed a few missions (parachuting into Yugoslavia to evaluate the different Partisan groups - not mentioned in the film) until he was given the mission the film is based on. Find out from a German physicist whether they were close to making an atom bomb. If so, kill him.

It is a small film really that is somewhat interesting but totally conventional and not particularly tense (perhaps my fault for reading about him before watching the film!). But somehow the director, Ben Lewin, managed to gather an amazing cast though most of them only drop by during their coffee break - Paul Rudd plays Berg, Jeff Daniels, Paul Giamatti, Mark Strong, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tom Wilkinson, Giancarlo Giannini, Guy Pearce, Sienna Miller and Connie Nielsen. Holy cow. Somebody has some pull.

The film ends with the mission but after the war Berg hung with the OSS for a while but eventually drifted away and for the last 20 years of his life he didn't work and just lived off of and with his siblings. He died in 1972. His last words being "How did the Mets do?"

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