Saturday, December 23, 2006



Tensions between Washington and Havana had increased steadily since the Cuban Revolution of 1959. The Americans felt that the expropriation of U.S. assets on the island and Cuba's increasing ties with the Soviet Union could not be tolerated. Consequently in March 1960 the Eisenhower administration agreed to a recommendation from the CIA to equip and drill Cuban exiles for action against the new Castro government. On the morning of April 17, 1961, three flights of Douglas B-26 bombers displaying Cuban Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria markings bombed and strafed several Cuban airfields. These air strikes were expected to effectively eliminate the Cuban air force, ensuring complete air superiority over the island prior to the actual landing at the Bay of Pigs later that day. The air attack failed because Castro had moved his airplanes out of harm's way. It soon became clear that Castro had prior knowledge of the invasion.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was concerned about American intelligence deficiencies at the onset of World War II. On the suggestion of Canadian spymaster William Stephenson, the senior representative of British intelligence in the Western Hemisphere, Roosevelt directed Stephenson's friend William J. Donovan to draft a plan for an intelligence service. Consequently the Office of Strategic Services was established in June 1942 to collect and analyse strategic information required by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to conduct special operations not assigned to other agencies. During the War, the OSS supplied policy makers with facts and estimates of enemy operations with many of its operatives working out of London, England.

Matt Damon: U.S. intelligence Officer Edward Wilson
John Turturro: Wilson’s right-hand man Ray Brocco
Alec Baldwin: F.B.I. agent Sam Murach
William Hurt: agency head Philip Allen
Michael Gambon: Dr. Fredericks, a Yale University literature professor
Tammy Blanchard: hearing-impaired student Laura
Angelina Jolie: Clover, sister to one of Edward’s classmates
Robert De Niro: American intelligence service recruiter General Sullivan
Billy Crudup: British intelligence Officer Arch Cummings
Oleg Stefan: Ulysses, Russian KGB chief Stas Siyanko
Eddie Redmayn: young Edward Jr.
John Sessions: Mironov, a Russian wanting asylum, code-named Valentin

Not only is the movie very long (almost 3 hours), it is complex, convoluted and confusing with all kinds of twists and turns (so typical of government sponsored espionage activities).

Furthermore it has a lot of flashbacks as it spans some forty years and has a cast of thousands (well not really but it seems like it with a new face showing up just about every second scene).

But it also looks good and the low-key acting throughout is top-notch.

So at the risk of giving away the plot, here are several things to keep in mind:
 Edward is the first to note that “there is a stranger in the house”
 Ulysses says “the cold is his weakness”
 Edward’s gift to his son is a glass watch case with a ship inside it
 the passport Edward finds in the book has Valentin's photo but another name
 Philip Allen has a weakness for chocolates

for some violence, sexuality and language.

Never did figure out to whom the title refers to.

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