Parents' Guide to

The Catcher Was a Spy

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Well-made spy thriller has some war violence, language.

Movie R 2018 98 minutes
The Catcher Was a Spy Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 1 parent review

age 16+

Clear Adult Themes

This movie is about sexuality. It has a hard time maturing past that theme to become a well-developed, historically-important drama. Anyone interested in a purely historical drama the likes of The King’s Speech or Finest Hour will have to keep looking. The main sex scene at the beginning is rough and seemed to be making a point that Moe was trying too hard (after a fight with another ball player) to prove he was masculine and straight...despite multiple implications from the beginning that he was not. As a result, it comes off more as a frustration-based forcing of rough sex from an impersonal position on a girl he cares nothing about. Why it needs to have this or anything else about sex is truly lost on me. It takes a long time to get into any substance about the spying, which I thought was supposed to be the plot. Virtually every conversation and interaction talks about his sexuality, including uses of the phrase, “I don’t care who you f***, as long as you do your job,” etc. Even if Moe’s homosexuality was a historical fact, how it made him better or worse at espionage is lost on me, and it adds nothing but speculation to a story that is supposed to draw attention to important facts about a brilliant man’s life. The rough, impersonal sex and coarse talk about human sexuality would be enough reason not to let my kids watch it, but it’s slow, has bad language, and, as it speculates a whole lot, has no real trustworthy educational value.

This title has:

Too much sex
Too much swearing
3 people found this helpful.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This thriller is very well written and acted, with Rudd perfectly cast in the lead. But it takes at least one liberty with Berg's life that causes concern. (More on that below.) Even though he bears no resemblance to the actual, burly Berg, Rudd looks the part of a journeyman Major Leaguer of the time. And he has the depth to believably convey Berg's lively intellect and inner turmoil. When Berg learns just enough Japanese to prank his fellow players, when he surprises people with his ability in multiple languages, or when he accepts a difficult chess challenge on the fly, it all seems natural. Likewise, Rudd convincingly wrestles with the question of whether Berg should kill Heisenberg or let him live (a la The Hunt for Red October). The Catcher Was a Spy generates tension without a high body count or gruesome violence. But it's not Hitchcock-tight or thrilling; director Ben Lewin (The Sessions) wisely makes it more of an intriguing character study than getting into the nuts and bolts of spying.

In the supporting cast, Pearce is amusing as an American tough-guy soldier. Sienna Miller is sympathetic as Berg's neglected girlfriend, unsure whether he really loves her. And Hiroyuki Sanada, Daniels, and Giamatti are all memorable in supporting roles. The writing is a career best for Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan), who strips away sentimentality to highlight revealing moments. The dialogue is sharp, capturing the cadence of the time. In one exchange, Berg is asked, "You are a Jew?" He responds, "Jew-ish." But the presentation of Berg's closeted homosexuality is problematic, as it's apparently not based in fact. All biopics tweak and embroider facts, and, of course, it could be true. But presenting a big part of a real-life person's life as fact for dramatic motivation in a movie is a questionable practice. And, frankly, it's unnecessary: The real-life Berg is plenty fascinating.

Movie Details

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