SpoilerTV - TV Spoilers

MOVIES: The Catcher Was a Spy - Review [Sundance 2018]



The story of Morris "Moe" Berg, a catcher for the Boston Red Sox who became a spy for the US government during World War II, seems perfect for the big-screen treatment. This was a Major League ballplayer who spoke multiple languages, held advanced degrees from Columbia and Princeton, and went undercover to discover whether or not the Nazi regime was capable of constructing a nuclear weapon. On the page, the story is fascinating, and when you cast Paul Rudd in the leading role and surround him with the likes of Jeff Daniels, Paul Giamatti, Mark Strong and Sienna Miller, it feels like a recipe for success.

Regrettably, director Ben Lewin's The Catcher Was a Spy fails to deliver on the promise of its premise. Plot elements are introduced only to be discarded, such as an early scene where a teammate, suspicious that Berg might be gay, follows him home and gets a beating for his troubles. This is shortly followed by a scene where Berg returns home to his longtime girlfriend (Miller) and makes passionate love to her on a piano bench. Later, while speaking to a Japanese ambassador (Hiroyuki Sanada) in a bar, Berg admits that he "likes to hide," which prompts the other man to place a hand over Berg's - and this is the last time the film makes any sort of reference to Berg's sexuality.

After taking the initiative to conduct a bit of reconnaissance during a goodwill trip to Japan, Berg falls in with an OSS chief (Daniels) and is tasked with working alongside brilliant physicist Samuel Goudsmit (Giamatti) to determine if Goudsmit's former colleague, Werner Heisenberg (Mark Strong), has the ability to build an atom bomb. Berg travels to Italy and then Switzerland to infiltrate Heisenberg's inner circle, and if he determines that Germany is on the brink of completing their device, he has orders to terminate his quarry.

By all rights this should be nail-biting stuff, but Lewin fails to generate any real suspense or intrigue from the material. Even the film's largest action sequence, where Berg and Goudsmit traverse a ruined battlefield while dodging enemy gunfire, feels bland and uninspired. Rudd is no stranger to dramatic material, but he comes across as a bit too charming to be truly believable in this sort of role, and with its scant 95-minute running time, The Catcher Was a Spy feels more like the CliffsNotes version of Berg's story, barely scratching the surface of a fascinating real-life hero.


Get Email Alerts


 
About The SpoilerTV Daily Newsreel

Every day 100's of items are submitted to us and we don't always have the time to make separate posts for the news and/or there is so much that it would quickly push all other items off the homepage.

So a result we've come up with the idea of the Newsreel, which will feature smaller shows and news items as they happen.

There will be a new Newsreel each day, and as news is added we will update the post and and push it back to the top of the site so that you can see that new items have been added. A tweet of the item will also be sent to our @SpoilerTV account.

New Items will be listed at the top of the article.

This will allow us to provide more news on more shows in a much more timely fashion
About Movie News Roundup

Rather that creating lots of new posts as new info is released and fragmenting the commentary, we thought it would be a good idea for the upcoming major movies to create a single post for each major movies that will collate all the info as it's posted.

New items will be added to the top of the list as well as the post being re-posted back to the top of the homepage when a new item is added. We will additionally send out a fresh tweet alerting you of the new information.

This will allow you to bookmark this page so that you can return to it whenever you like. It will also help consolidate all the discussion on this movie in a central place and make it less likely that you'll miss some key information.