The Catcher Was a Spy, based on the book by Nicholas Dawidoff
This motion picture is based on real story and this adds to the enjoyment of seeing a film that has not received a positive reception, although it has solid performances all around, from a fabulous cast.
Paul Rudd is excellent in the leading role of Moe Berg, although the public has seen him in comedies for most of the time and the tale of this major league baseball player who speaks seven languages fluently and a few more tolerably is dramatic.
Morris “Moe” Berg is the ultimate Super Hero, a role model with a mysterious life, an athlete capable of throwing the ball out of the park – as he does in a few scenes while preparing for a Secret Operation against the Nazis.
The hero is brave, well-educated is too little to say about him, ready to die for the country – as he says in front of William J. Donovan, the general portrayed by the magnificent Jeff Daniels, when the country calls the baseball player to serve.
William J. Donovan is in charge of some Special Operations, at the time of the action, the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency was in place, called The Office of Strategic Services – OSS.
The United States High Command is worried that the Germans would be able to build the atomic bomb – in the words of Robert Furman, an Army officer played by the terrific Guy Pearce; each atomic weapon would be able to annihilate a major city and therefore would change the fate of the war.
The man able to work the way towards the most powerful weapon is the Nobel Prize Winner Werner Heisenberg and the OSS tries to assess his advance towards that project, the willingness that the scientist has to complete it and eventually kill him, if there is a danger that the fascists might get their hands on the ultimate destruction machine.
A team is assembled, formed by Morris Moe Berg as the man who would kill the German physicist if need be, Samuel Gousmit portrayed by the wondrous Paul Giamatti, Robert Gousmit and some other people who would back up the operation.
Before this project, Moe had impressed William J. Donovan and others with his background, erudition and especially a brilliant initiative he had had while visiting Tokyo with the baseball team, where he had filmed locations in the Japanese capital, from the top of a central building.
William J. Donovan interviews the hero and he is asking about the reason to make that film, seeing as the two countries were not at war, but the protagonist says he had read the newspapers – which indicate the capacity he has to make in depth analysis – but the commander is also interested in personal aspects.
When questioned on the motive for which he is still single at the age of forty, the hero does not respond with a “confession”, making the OSS leader to ask if he is “queer”, prompting the pledge that the single man is ready to sacrifice for the country and finally the high ranking officer states he “does not care who he fucks as long as he is loyal”.
The assembled team meet with an Italian Professor, a friend of Gousmit and Heisenberg – the American scientist used to be close to the German genius, up to the point where he had asked help for his family and that had not been forthcoming.
Professor Eduardo Amaldi – aka the fabulous Giancarlo Giannini – speaks about the best scientist in the world, Albert Einstein, insinuating that Werner Heisenberg would like to be the brightest on the planet and the making of the atomic bomb would give him the ticket.
Moe Berg has the difficult task of killing a man who may not be about to finish the plan for the nuclear weapon, so it would be appropriate to try and see where Werner Heisenberg stands first and for that the hero travels to attend a lecture where the German is invited by Paul Scherrer, portrayed by the titan Tom Wilkinson.
Werner Heisenberg addresses students and guests, with Moe Berg in the audience, one hand on the pistol – in the meantime, he had been training with a gun, in hand to hand combat, to be able to face potential challenges.
The statements made by the German scientist are ambiguous at times, at other moments, he seems to indicate a willingness to use the new findings about the atom for the nuclear development and the protagonist is ready to take the pistol out from under the coat.
There is a discussion with William J. Donovan about the intentions of the genius professor and his intentions, before the hero meets him, with the probabilities that the scientist might want to make the bomb, alternatively, to join the Allies, but the American leader says that he is not ready to consider even the 5% chance that the fascist all destructive weapon is accomplished.
Donovan says that even a very small chance that their target has of confounding those who think he would not collaborate, do something so appalling is still not acceptable, considering the scale of destruction, the incredible human loss resulting from the use of the ultimate weapon.
Moe Berg meets with Werner Heisenberg, using the alias of Mr. Aziz, although the German says that the name does not fit, they play chess, and they make a few moves without using the board, only their phenomenal memories and their incredible abilities to see a few moves ahead.
The Catcher Who Was a Spy has to try to understand where the scientist stands, after he is attacked with a barrage of criticism at a social gathering, where two women accuse Heisenberg of villainous attitude, considering the fact that he still lives and works in Hitler’s Germany…
The film ends with some explanations, although there is still a mystery surrounding the lives, intentions of those involved – why would one refuse one of the most prestigious medals…