Directed by Ben Lewin and based on the true story of Moe Berg, the 2018 spy thriller “The Catcher Was A Spy” is a very average work through and through. The first thing the film fails is in selecting the lead cast, who, in this case, is Paul Rudd. People try different characters to break their limitations as actors, but in Paul Rudd’s case, well, you just can’t see him as a lead in a spy thriller. However, it’s not just the casting choice that will disappoint the audience. As a spy thriller, the narrative is chaotic and turns into a war drama very soon with several unnecessary plotlines. But let’s just discuss the film and its ending.

Spoilers Ahead

The Catcher Was A Spy (2018) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

The film starts with Moe Berg, a baseball player who becomes a spy during World War II to help the United States beat Nazi Germany in the race to build the first atomic bomb. He is talking to one of the guys who is supposed to guide him into killing Werner Heisenberg, who is helping the Germans to build the atomic bomb. Werner Heisenberg, a German physicist, was in charge of delivering the bomb right after Germany was able to split the atom in 1938. So, to stop this from happening, the US sends Moe Berg to assassinate him.

Later, we see a glimpse of Moe’s life before taking the job for the government. Moe plays for the Boston Red Sox in 1936 and he is gifted with one skill as a player. He has a strong intuition that helps him understand the game and predict the opponent’s strategy. His coach, Joe Cronin, wants Moe to retire and join as a coach. His teammates secretly think he is queer as he keeps himself very involved. Moe has a secret lover named Estella Huni, who wants Moe to appreciate her as his wife. Moe is well-educated, with degrees from Princeton and Columbia University, and he is fluent in 7 languages, including German, French, and even Hindi.

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How does the Trip to Japan Change Everything for Moe?

During a trip to Japan, Moe is approached by a man named Kawabata. They spend the night discussing the fact that the US and Japan will soon be in a fight with each other. During his visit to Japan, Moe films Japanese military installations from the top. Moe approaches the Director of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), Bill Donovan, and shows him his films of Japanese installations. However, before that, Moe had already met with Jerry Fredericks, who was already working for the ministry. Moe shares his will to work for the government with him.

Now, since Jerry is a good friend of Bill and has already spoken a lot about Moe to him, Bill recruits Moe. His photographs from Japan also help him get the job quite easily as Bill is surprised to see a common man taking photographs like a spy, that too without any training whatsoever. Moe starts working at a desk job, which gradually frustrates him more and more until one day, Bill introduces him to Robert Furman and Samuel Goudsmit. This is the first time Moe learns about the German atomic bomb project and Heisenberg.

But, the problem looms large as Heisenberg is missing. The only person he is in contact with is Professor Edoardo Amaldi, who is in an Italian town. So, they start their journey to Italy. During that time, Sam tells him how brilliant Heisenberg is. Moe asks Sam whether he is capable of making an atomic bomb, and in reply, Sam says that he has the capability of making it, but will he choose to make it? That is the question that starts to sail inside everyone’s mind.

What leads Moe to Switzerland?

The Catcher Was a Spy
A still from “The Catcher Was a Spy” (2018)

In Italy, the trio, along with the US army, saves Edoardo from the German forces. When the city is fully under US command, they start talking to Edoardo. He tells Moe that if Heisenberg wanted to finish the bomb, he would have done it by now. All progress notes taken from Edoardo indicate that Heisenberg is deliberately stalling progress. But since Furman shows his doubts, Sam even points out that Heisenberg shares the notes as personal letters to a friend (Edoardo). So why would he lie anyway? Knowing that Sam admires Heisenberg, Furman tends to believe that this all is coming from a friend’s concern.

Despite the British confirming that, in their view, there is no German atomic bomb, Bill gives the order to assassinate Heisenberg. They discover that Heisenberg will visit a small town near Zurich to attain his friend Paul Scherrer’s invitation. In moments like these, no one can or will take any chances when it comes to national security. Moe tries to confront Bill by saying that Heisenberg is perhaps secretly helping the Allies. But his opinion does not weigh much in terms of making the decision on behalf of the government. Anyway, Bill has also given him a particular capsule, saying that when his job is done, he must not get caught by the German spies who will be there at Paul’s place.

The Catcher Was A Spy (2018) Movie Ending Explained:

Does Moe kill Heisenberg?

Moe, with the help of Furman and his contacts, is smuggled into Zurich and is invited to a party hosted by Scherrer. Heisenberg is very much expected to attend the party as they have been very good friends for a long time. There comes a time when Heisenberg heads to the bathroom and hears someone clicking the gun inside one of the chambers.

Later, he sees Moe getting out of the bathroom. Moe introduces himself as one Mr. Aziz to everyone. He meets Heisenberg at the party and talks about chess throughout the party, which intrigues Heisenberg’s curiosity about him. Knowing that he carries a gun, Heisenberg even wants to know more about him from Scherrer when he mentions that there is nothing to be worried about. At the party, every woman mocks Heisenberg for taking the opposition’s side, which leads to his frustration as he decides to leave the party. Moe follows him and then comes a time when he corners Heisenberg on a bridge. Heisenberg understands that he is there to kill him. But soon one of the German spies is ready to shoot Moe.

Luckily, Moe has his cover and shoots the spy dead. Moe simply asks Heisenberg whether he is making a bomb for the Germans or not. Heisenberg’s reply makes Moe realize that he has no intention of helping Germany win the war. Just as we have seen from the beginning, Moe can read people very well because of the god-gifted instinct he has. He trusts Heisenberg’s words as he lets him go freely.

Is ‘The Catcher Was A Spy’ (2018) Based on A True Story?

Yes. Moe Berg was indeed sent to assassinate Heisenberg during the times of the Second World War. But since there was never a German bomb, there was no killing of one of the most brilliant scientists of all time. Moe was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he declined to receive. No one knows the reason behind this rejection, though. After the war, Heisenberg revealed the location of all of Germany’s heavy water stockpile to the Allies, which helped them a lot in deciding the future of the long-standing war. Moe and Estella never reunited as she married in 1945, and he remained a bachelor.

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The Catcher Was A Spy (2018) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
Cast of The Catcher Was A Spy (2018) Movie: Paul Rudd, Mark Strong, Sienna Miller, Jeff Daniels, Tom Wilkinson, Giancarlo Giannini, Hiroyuki Sanada, Guy Pearce, Paul Giamatti
The Catcher Was A Spy (2018) Movie Genre: Mystery & thriller/Biography, Runtime: 1h 34m
Where to watch The Catcher Was a Spy

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