The Company (miniseries)
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Promotional poster for The Company
|Created by||Robert Littell|
|Developed by||Ken Nolan|
|Directed by||Mikael Salomon|
Alexandra Maria Lara
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||3|
|Executive producer(s)||Ridley Scott
|Running time||286 Mins|
|Original release||August 5 – August 19, 2007|
The Company is an American fiction miniseries that follows the Cold War intelligence battle between the CIA and the KGB from the end of World War II to the fall of the Soviet Union. The protagonist is Jack McAuliffe (Chris O'Donnell), an idealistic and naive "true believer" who was recruited from Yale by his crew coach Waltz. The story starts in 1955, then flashes to 1950, then ends in 1991. In all, it spans 41 years.
Jack begins his career stationed in Berlin to work with Harvey Torriti (Alfred Molina), who is codenamed "the Sorcerer." Torriti takes Jack under his wing, and the two keep in touch even after Jack's career takes him from Berlin. A string of failed missions from Berlin to the Bay of Pigs Invasion forces Jack to conclude that the CIA has been severely penetrated by a KGB mole. The miniseries centers on the efforts of Jack and Harvey, along with the increasingly paranoid counterintelligence chief James Angleton (Michael Keaton), to expose and destroy the mole. Angleton becomes so paranoid, according to some of his staff, that he is forced to retire when he argues that evidence apparently clearing a suspected mole was actually incriminating evidence because it was too easily discovered. But at the end of the movie Angleton is proven right about the mole. At his farewell of the CIA he also mentions some other top KGB-agents in the world, the West Germany Chancellor Willy Brandt, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme.
Reruns of the first episode, immediately after it premiered on 5 August 2007, were heavily edited by the TNT network, due to commercial breaks that were not included with the first run.
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Harvey Torriti ("The Sorcerer") runs the CIA Berlin station of the Soviet Russia Division from a dingy cinema in 1955 Berlin, a hotbed of spies where secrets are readily sold. His young apprentice, Jack McAuliffe, was recruited straight out of Yale in 1950, along with his best friend Leo Kritzky.
Jack and Leo had a third friend at Yale: Russian-born Yevgeny Tsipin. During graduate work at Yale, he returns to Moscow to attend his mother's funeral, where he's introduced to a family friend, master KGB spy Starik, who recruits him. While training, Yevgeny meets beautiful Azalia Ivanova and falls in love, but Starik gives him an ultimatum – his country or the woman he loves. Yevgeny leaves for his assignment in the United States.
An East German, Constantine Vishnevsky, has offered information regarding a mole within MI6, in exchange for safe passage for himself and his family to the West. From the CIA's temporary headquarters in Washington, counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton sends orders to Berlin to begin Vishnevsky's exfiltration, sharing, as is his custom, this information with his best friend Adrian Philby, MI6's liaison to Washington.
Jack believes Vishnevsky might have supplied misinformation but, while he and the Sorcerer are waiting for the family, KGB officers and Berlin police burst into the cinema downstairs. The CIA ops are able to make their escape but the defection has been compromised, proving the existence of the suspected mole.
After conducting a thorough search of everyone in the CIA, Angleton surmises the leak is in the Berlin operation. The Sorcerer is determined to prove him wrong and comes up with a risky plan to flush out the mole by feeding him real information. Meanwhile, Jack is smitten by Lili, an East German ballerina, who provides information from a figure known as the Professor, an important scientist in the East German hierarchy.
Jack's friend Leo Kritzky has fallen in love with Adelle Swett, a young woman whose influential father Phillip Swett is a personal friend of President Eisenhower. When Leo proposes marriage to Adelle, Phillip has him vetted and discovers that he works for the CIA. Despite this, he gives permission for Adelle to marry Leo.
Yevgeny has arrived in Washington D.C., where he is posing as an American and working as a delivery boy for Kahn's Liquor Store. He regularly communicates with Starik by an elaborate series of codes and numbers to get his orders. One of his regular assignments is to make liquor deliveries to the Georgetown home of Adrian Philby.
In Berlin, the Sorcerer and Jack are ambushed by phony muggers and then "rescued" by phony cops who turn out to be KGB agents, indicating the Sorcerer's plan is working. Discrepancies are found in Lili's information and, when confronted by Jack, she admits being forced into betraying the Professor by the KGB, who threatened both of their lives. She assures Jack her love for him is genuine, but shortly thereafter she and the professor are both dead.
The Sorcerer meets with Angleton and CIA director Allen Dulles insisting Philby has been a Russian spy for thirty years. Philby is quickly recalled to Moscow but, before he leaves, Yevgeny tells him he is not indispensable – the KGB has another mole already in place – Sasha (Aleksander Kopatzky).
Two years pass. Jack has been sent to Budapest on the eve of the Hungarian revolution in an attempt to persuade the freedom fighters to postpone their uprising. He makes contact with Elizabet Nemeth, a beautiful museum guide, who while dodging the AVH (the Hungarian Secret Police), takes him to resistance leader Arpad Zelk. Jack then tells Arpad that if he encourages an uprising, the U.S. will not step in to help.
Jack is abducted and brought to the AVH prison where he is interrogated under torture. The Sorcerer has a contentious meeting with his KGB counterpart in Berlin, demanding the AVH release Jack (by virtue of the KGB's hold over AVH), however, as Jack is being transported to a new location, Arpad shows up and frees him then together they rescue Elizabet, who was also being held. As the freedom fighters storm the AVH prison and kill all of the guards. Szabkanko, the commandant, begs Jack to protect him by revealing that he knows the identity of the mole within the CIA, but Arpad does not comply.
As Hungarian refugees pour into Vienna, Jack sends a message back to the CIA to back up the freedom fighters before the Russians return, but President Eisenhower is adamant – no troops to aid the Hungarians. Angleton insists thousands of Hungarians will die if the president's intentions become known. The solution is to deceive the Russians with misleading radio traffic indicating a U.S. buildup of troops.
Jack joins the revolutionaries as the Russian T-34 tanks begin rolling into Budapest. He, Elizabet, and Zoltan, another rebel, join Arpad at the Killian barracks, where hundreds of demonstrators are taking shelter. Realizing that further resistance is futile against the Russians, Arpad attempts to surrender, but is gunned down. Zoltan helps Jack and Elizabet escape through a series of tunnels in the barracks subbasement. The three make their way to the Austrian border, where the Sorcerer has been watching for Jack. At the refugee camp, Jack is able to re-unite Elizabet with her ten-year-old daughter who had been taken away from her some years earlier.
Four years later, Jack is in the Guatemalan jungle, where Cuban rebel leader Roberto Escalona is training a group of volunteer émigrés in preparation for an invasion of their homeland after a landing in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Roberto believes that President Kennedy will send in the Navy to help the counter-revolutionaries but Jack reminds him that if his group gets into any trouble once they land on the beach, they're on their own. The Sorcerer has his own plans for Fidel Castro which involve calling on his Mafia contacts to arrange an assassination. Through a Brooklyn mobster, the Sorcerer is led to Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana who comes up with the idea of poisoning Castro via one of the vanilla milkshakes that the Cuban leader is served every afternoon at the Hotel Libre in Havana.
In Washington, Yevgeny is nearly arrested by the FBI but is able to construct a new American identity for himself. He gets word to his handler – Sasha – who has vital information about the Cuban invasion to impart to Starik. In the CIA war room, Angleton argues that the Company has no business getting involved in Cuba. As long as Sasha is still operating, all of their vital information is being funneled to the enemy and the operation is doomed to failure. His associates, including Richard Bissell, the architect of the invasion plan, scoff at the notion that Sasha exists at all. In Havana, the head of Castro's secret police, Manuel Piñeiro, intercepts the waiter about to serve the poisoned milk shake to Castro, and forces him to drink it instead.
Jack is part of the first wave of rebel fighters arriving at the Bay of Pigs. Although the landing site has been changed, they set up makeshift headquarters on the beach, becoming sitting ducks for the tanks and aircraft that Castro is planning to send in. As the Cuban Sea Fury planes appear overhead, raking the shoreline with machine gun fire, Roberto is desperately expecting the U.S. air cover that never comes. JFK has resolutely refused to commit air forces to combat. Roberto forces a reluctant Jack to swim to the safety of a damaged destroyer in the bay, leaving Roberto and the rebels on the beach to face certain death. Angry with the president and the Company for letting the rebels down, Jack contemplates handing in his resignation. His old friend Leo talks him out of it and Jack is awarded with the agency's highest honor.
Fifteen more years pass – it is now 1975. Jack and Leo, who has climbed so high at the Company that he is being talked about as the next director, are in their forties. Jack is working on the case of Krushkin, a KGB captain who wants to defect with his family. In exchange, he will provide more information about the elusive Sasha, with whom Angleton has become increasingly obsessed. Angleton thinks that it may be a trick of Starik's but Jack assures him that he believes that Krushkin is credible.
Using a liquor delivery list from Kahn's store, Angleton narrows the names down to Company employees, leading him to Leo Kritzky. Returning with his wife from a vacation in France, Leo is arrested at the airport and brought to a holding cell where he is strip-searched and then interrogated by Angleton. As he looks on from behind a two-way mirror, Jack is reeling from the possibility that his best friend may be responsible for Lili's suicide and the deaths of the Cuban rebels and the Hungarian freedom fighters. Jack is shocked by Leo's condition when he visits him in prison. Still insisting that he is not Sasha, Leo tells Jack that he believes Krushkin has been dispatched by the KGB. But Krushkin mysteriously returns to the Soviet Union, where he is put on trial for treason and shot. Jack and the Sorcerer don't believe it and when it turns out that Krushkin is alive after all, Leo is cleared and returns to his office at the Company. Angleton remains convinced that Leo is Sasha and is forced to resign; in his parting words to the Company, he reels off a list of international statesmen (including W. Averell Harriman and Henry Kissinger) he believes are under KGB control as part of a massive scheme to convince the U.S. that it is winning the Cold War and turn the world against it.
In 1987, as the Cold War winds down, improvements in technology have enabled the counterintelligence analysts, Vanessa and Tessa, to pinpoint the telephone number that Moscow Radio broadcast in the early 1950s to its KGB operatives. It leads to Kahn's Liquor Store and to Yevgeny. Jack visits the dying Angleton who figures out that lists of further numbers broadcast by Moscow are not telephone numbers but bank accounts, part of a complicated financial scheme, codenamed Kholstomer, designed by Starik to wreak havoc on the American economy. Angleton again accuses Leo of being Sasha. Jack starts to have his own suspicions but is not prepared when he accompanies the FBI to arrest Yevgeny and discovers that it is his old classmate from Yale. Jack then pays a visit to Leo – to whom Yevgeny had been making deliveries over the years – and accuses him of being Sasha. Leo does not deny it – he admits to being recruited to the KGB by Stella Bledsoe, a girlfriend who took advantage of his socialist leanings – and shoots Jack in the gut. Before he disappears into the night, Leo phones an ambulance for his friend.
While Jack is in the hospital recovering, Starik's financial plot Kholstomer is curtailed by the Company, but not altogether avoided. When he is released, Jack pays a visit to Angleton, who has been proved right about Sasha and was instrumental in identifying Starik's officers in banks around the world. Angleton assures Jack that Starik and his associates will be sent to the gulag, particularly when the Soviets realize that Kholstomer would never have worked anyway due to the sheer size of the modern US economy.
Several years later: the collapse of the Soviet Union is imminent. Jack (now 64), offers Yevgeny an early release from prison if he will provide the whereabouts of Leo. He reveals to Yevgeny that his love Azalia was exiled to the gulag by Starik, after which Yevgeny is happy to oblige. He tracks down Leo in Moscow but warns him before passing his whereabouts to Jack. Yevgeny pays Starik a visit but revenge is pointless: Starik has gone senile. Next he finds Azalia, who is angered to learn of his past with the KGB .
1991, Jack, in Moscow, apprises the Company of the prospects that Boris Yeltsin will take power and bring democracy to Russia. Executing a plan to kill his former friend, Jack has the opportunity to push Leo in front of a car but chooses not to at the last moment, disappearing into the crowd just as Leo realises he is there. Back in Maryland, the Sorcerer and Jack discuss their work in the Cold War. Jack expresses his misgivings over the things they did at the Company, but Harvey assures him they were the "good guys" because they won.
- Chris O'Donnell as Jack McAuliffe
- Michael Keaton as James Jesus Angleton / Mother
- Alfred Molina as Harvey Torriti / The Sorcerer
- Rory Cochrane as Yevgeny Tsipin
- Alessandro Nivola as Leo Kritzky
- Ulrich Thomsen as Starik Zhilov
- Natascha McElhone as Elizabet Nemeth
- Alexandra Maria Lara as Lili / Helga
- Antony Sher as CIA Liaison Officer (Mossad) "The Rabbi"
- Simon Callow as MI6 liaison officer Elihu
The Soviet spy Tsipin uses the code word "Alice in Wonderland", from the book by Lewis Carroll. Tsipin uses the aliases Eugene "Dodgson" and Gene "Lutwidge". Lewis Carroll's real name is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Tsipin's superior, "Starik" the KGB general, takes posed photos of young girls as a hobby, just as Dodgson did.
The DVD set came with two disks. The second disk had a "Covert Mission" to be completed by placing the disk in a computer's DVD drive "...to receive instructions to complete your mission." After searching the different directories, the player could find a folder "PC_Clickme" that linked to a website, www.thecompanyspygame.com. This domain was abandoned in 2011.
- Summer-Fall 2006: filming in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
- Fall-Winter 2006: filming in central Budapest, District VIII.
- Spring 2007: filming in Añasco, Puerto Rico.
Blu-ray and DVD release
- "Internet Movie Database – List of Films shot in Hamilton, Ontario". Retrieved 2008-01-29.