A Spy's Dilemma
I am a sucker for spy movies, especially the comedy ones like Johnny English with Rowan Atkinson and Spy with Melissa McCarthy. So when I heard Paul Rudd would be starring in The Catcher Was a Spy, I was very happy. After all, Rudd’s movie career is filled with entertaining low-key comic performances in such flicks as Anchorman, Clueless, Role Models and The Legend of Ron Burgundy. I actually told myself, “This movie is also about baseball, and that promises humor gold.”
Well, everything I was prepared for turned out to be completely wrong. So, dear reader, please don’t start to watch The Catcher Was a Spy expecting an amusing experience. This is drama from start to finish -- and it’s a true story that will probably surprise you.
Rudd portrays Moe Berg, a catcher for The Boston Red Socks back in pre-WW II days. But Berg was much more than this. He spoke many languages, was well-read, graduated from Princeton, appeared on quiz shows, and had a very complicated love life. When he became an agent for the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the CIA), his language skills made him a perfect candidate for the special assignment he received. And as a closeted gay man, Berg supposedly said he was "good at keeping secrets."
However, Berg had to come to grips with the morality of what he was asked to do.
Baseball player becomes a spy.
Will he agree to kill a guy?
Retiring from the baseball game,
this catcher must give up his fame.
He keeps secrets – more than a few.
It’s World War II and he’s a Jew
A scientist he’s asked to find
and learn what’s in that German’s mind.
A new bomb in the Axis hands?
Yikes! That would spoil the Allies plans.
Paul Rudd’s humor is nowhere seen.
Pure drama fills up every scene.
Based on true facts, the film seems real.
Let story flow to seal the deal.
Many folks never heard this tale.
So it is new – not a bit stale.
Directed by Ben Lewin (who worked from Robert Rodat’s screenplay adaptation of the book by Nicolas Dawidoff), this biopic excels in several areas. The film looks great. Costumes, sets and atmospheric cinematography help create a “you are there” feel to most scenes; and supporting performances by Mark Strong as the German scientist, Sienna Miller as one of Berg’s lovers, and Jeff Daniels as his military superior stand out.
If you enjoy dramatic spy movies, add The Catcher Was a Spy to your list. But remember -- don’t expect Paul Rudd to be funny. He’s deadly serious here.
(Released by IFC Films and rated “R” for some sexuality, violence and language.)
For more information about The Catcher Was a Spy, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.