Netflix Spy Thriller Is An Unbelievable True Story That Saved America

By Robert Scucci | Published

  • The Catcher Was A Spy is based on a true story of World War Two.
  • Paul Rudd stars as Moe Berg in The Catcher Was A Spy.
  • The Catcher Was A Spy was rejected by critics but has found new life on streaming.
  • The real Moe Berg was a complicated genius that The Catcher Was A Spy struggles to fully capture.

It’s not too often that a retired baseball player joins the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to participate in espionage, but The Catcher Was a Spy tells exactly that story. Based on the Nicholas Dawidoff novel of the same name, this Paul Rudd-starring film takes you on a journey that starts behind home plate and ends in Zurich, Switzerland. Though the story behind The Catcher Was a Spy is perplexing on every level, it’s not nearly as perplexing as the life of Moe Berg, the enigmatic man the story was based on.

Based On The Life Of Moe Berg

The Catcher Was a Spy centers on the life of Moe Berg (Paul Rudd), an average professional baseball player with above-average intelligence. To say that his intelligence was above average would be a gross understatement. Berg, who only had a career batting average of .243 across 15 seasons, was known to read 10 newspapers a day and was fluent in Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Sanskrit.

Moe’s Intelligence Gets The Attention Of American Intelligence

Moe’s intelligence, as portrayed in The Catcher Was a Spy, eventually leads to his employment with the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA. During a trip to Japan for a series of exhibition games, Berg takes a series of photos of Tokyo’s harbor and Navy shipyards, which is unusual behavior for a civilian traveling abroad. Moe’s curiosity captures the attention of OSS Chief Bill Donovan (Jeff Daniels), who is impressed by his intellect, linguistic skills, and athletic attributes, and he has a mission in mind where Moe can use his unique set of skills.

The Race For The Atomic Bomb

We learn about Werner Heisenberg’s possible involvement with the Nazis in their efforts to create an atom bomb in The Catcher Was a Spy, and Moe is tasked with finding out how far along the Germans are in their research and development process. Moe is instructed to assassinate Heisenberg if his suspected involvement in the project is confirmed, and heads to Switzerland to size up the operation.

Playing It Safe

For as interesting of a character as Moe Berg may have been in real life, critics were quick to point out that Paul Rudd’s portrayal of the real-life enigma fell flat on multiple fronts. While Rudd did an excellent job speaking in multiple languages as Moe Berg in The Catcher Was a Spy, the film was criticized for taking such a wild story and watering it down to the point of being ineffective. That is to say, a character study that had so much potential to tell a compelling story came off as safe, and by the numbers.

A Critical Dud

For failing to stress the urgency of such a heightened state of global conflict, The Catcher Was a Spy garnered a critical score of 33 percent against an audience score of 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The prevailing sentiment among critics was that the real-life Moe Berg deserved a better movie about his life, as the version of the story we got lacked subtlety and the necessary amount of drama to keep viewers engaged. Though Paul Rudd is typically known to ooze with charm in most of his movies, he was criticized for being just a bit too charming to be believable in this spy film.

Watch The Movie And Then Read More About Berg

Among the critics who gave The Catcher Was a Spy more favorable reviews, there was still a general sense of disappointment because such an interesting and complicated character like Moe Berg was toned down for the sake of brevity and storytelling. But still, The Catcher Was a Spy is a solid entry point into the mysterious life of Moe Berg that should be celebrated. If you stream the movie on Netflix, you may find yourself compelled to check out the novel and learn about the strangest man to ever play baseball.