Morris “Moe” Berg was a man of many secrets. While his career was being a major league baseball catcher, he was a multi-Ivy League graduate, a speaker of many languages, and was drafted by Office of Security Services (the precursor to the CIA) during WWII to become a spy. Based on a true story, The Catcher Was A Spy attempts to tell a story as interesting as Moe’s life, but falls short.
Paul Rudd plays Moe as an elusive, standoffish, and charming guy who’s worth watching. It’s quite fascinating to see a man juggle the many extracurricular activities that he had. The downside to his gifts is his inability to develop a long lasting relationship with Estella (Sienna Miller). Though he claims to love her, their relationship is stunted due to how closed off he is. Rudd is absolutely the shining light in this role, knowing how to strike that awkward suaveness in his Paul Rudd-y way.
The film also has the advantage of being a period piece, so we have some beautiful costumes and set designs. While overseas in the OSS, the cinematography feels like its dripping in sepia tones. A lot of soft yellows dominate the second half of it, giving the film a sleepy look. Its reminiscent of an older photograph thats aging with too much exposure.
Unfortunately, not even the coolness of Rudd and the production design can save this bland film. The story drawls as we wait until Moe becomes a spy. And even then, the spy training montage is frankly boring. We spend more time watching Moe play a game of baseball on the base than see his hand-to-hand and sharp shooting training combined. When we finally get to Moe’s ultimate mission to stop German scientist Werner Heisenberg, it ends up being more conversation than action. This may have been what happened in actuality, but, if it’s based on a true story, you can increase the drama and action to make the film more engaging.
In the end, The Catcher Was A Spy was much more catcher and not enough spy. It’s a shame that such a talented cast is wasted on a script with no meat, and a story with no grit. There was so much potential to make this film a period-piece/action thriller with a secretive character like Moe. What we end up with is a film that’s the opposite of how fascinating its lead subject is.