The Company (miniseries)
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The Company is a three-part serial about the activities of the CIA during the Cold War. It was based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Robert Littell. The teleplay adaptation was written by Ken Nolan, who received a Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Long Form – Adapted.
DVD cover 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)||John Calley|
|Running time||286 Mins|
|Production company(s)||Scott Free Productions|
John Calley Productions
Sony Pictures Television
|Original release||August 5 – August 19, 2007|
In 1950, best friends Jack McAuliffe, Leo Kritzky, and Yevgeny Tsipin graduate from Yale and prepare to go their separate ways; Jack and Leo are recruited to the CIA by Frank "The Wizard" Wisner, while Yevgeny goes home to Moscow, where he is recruited into the KGB by spymaster Starik while falling in love with Azalia Ivanova.
In 1955, Jack has been assigned to Harvey "The Sorcerer" Torriti at a CIA station in East Berlin, where East German defector Vishnevsky offers the identity of a mole in MI6 for safe passage to the West. At CIA headquarters in Washington, counterintelligence chief James Jesus "Mother" Angleton begins Vishnevsky's exfiltration, telling his best friend and MI6 liaison Adrian Philby. The KGB and Berlin police show up to the exfiltration instead of Vishnevsky; Torriti and Jack escape, surmising the blown defection is due to the mole.
Angleton believes the fault lies with Berlin, infuriating Torriti, who aims to expose the mole by feeding him a barium meal; Torriti gives privileged information to a trusted contact in MI6, forcing the mole to protect himself by killing Torriti. Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love with his first asset, Lili, who provides information from an important scientist. Jack and Torriti are ambushed at a meeting, proving that the barium meal worked, so Torriti prepares another.
In Washington, Leo has become Wisner's apprentice, though Angleton dislikes him. Leo has fallen in love with Adele Sweet, whose father is friends with President Eisenhower. When Leo proposes, her father disapproves of the "mixed marriage", but eventually relents. Yevgeny arrives in Washington and manages to tell Azalia he is in the United States. By night he deciphers elaborate codes from Moscow Radio, and by day, his cover is liquor deliveries, including covert delivery to the mole: Philby. Torriti flies home to tell Angleton and CIA director Allen Dulles that his MI6 source confirms Philby is the mole, but Angleton discredits Torriti.
In Berlin, discrepancies are found in Lili's information. When confronted by Jack, she admits she was turned by the KGB, but assures Jack that she loves him. Shortly thereafter, the KGB murders the scientist and Lili commits suicide. In Washington, Yevgeny tells Philby to run before he is caught, then assures him that another mole, Sasha, has already taken his place. Jack is unsure if Torriti used Lili for his final barium meal, and Angleton is devastated that his best friend was a mole.
In 1956, Jack is sent to Budapest on the eve of the Hungarian Revolution, but he is abducted and tortured at an AVH prison. Torriti threatens his KGB counterpart in Berlin, demanding the KGB have the AVH release Jack, but Jack is rescued by the revolutionaries, who execute an AVH commandant as he tries to reveal Sasha's identity. Jack asks the CIA to back the freedom fighters, but Eisenhower refuses and the revolution is crushed. Jack escapes and reconnects with Torriti, Wisner has a breakdown over his complicity in the CIA's actions, and Starik tells Nikita Khrushchev of "Kholstomer", his longterm masterstroke to cripple the United States economy. Yevgeny continues his work and tries to call Azalia, but his handlers are unable to find her.
In 1960, Jack joins Cuban rebels to help prepare them for an invasion, believing that the Kennedy administration will support the rebels. In Washington, Torriti devises a scheme to have the Mafia assassinate Fidel Castro; Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana suggests poisoning one of Castro's daily milkshakes. The assassin is intercepted by the head of Castro's secret police Manuel Piñeiro and forced to drink the milkshake. In Washington, Yevgeny is nearly arrested by the FBI and forced to relocate. As the CIA prepares the Cuban invasion, Angleton predicts Sasha will insure its failure. Bissell, the architect of the invasion and Leo's new boss, scoffs at the notion, but the Bay of Pigs Invasion is a disaster, and Jack barely escapes with his life. Angry that the CIA and President let the rebels down, Jack nearly resigns, but Leo, who now has a son with Adele, talks him out of it. Jack is awarded a Distinguished Intelligence Medal.
In 1975, Leo is on vacation with his family, Yevgeny visits with his dying father and a disillusioned Philby in Russia, and Jack is working to exfiltrate Kukushkin, who promises information on Sasha. Angleton feels Kukushkin may be legitimate, but his obsession with Sasha and Soviet infiltration into the CIA has begun to cripple the Company. Using information gathered over decades, including Kukushkin's new data and clues from the liquor store where Yevgeny was nearly caught, Angleton divines a system of masterful rhetoric to reveal the mole: Leo.
Angleton has Leo kidnapped, interred, and begins systematically interrogating him about his socialist father. Jack can't believe his best friend may be responsible for Lili, Hungary, and the Bay of Pigs; when Jack visits him, Leo proclaims his innocence and suggests that Kukushkin must be a disinformation agent dispatched by the KGB. Mirroring Leo's prediction, Kukushkin returns to the Soviet Union, where he is apparently shot as a traitor. When Kukushkin turns up alive, CIA director Colby exonerates Leo, but Angleton furiously insists that Starik manipulated the Kukushkin defection so the CIA would believe Leo is innocent. Leo is freed and Angleton is forced to resign, berating his superiors that the KGB's wilderness of mirrors has falsely convinced them they are winning the Cold War.
In 1987, Torriti has retired and Adele has committed suicide. Analysts present Jack with an old lead linking a '50s Moscow Radio broadcast to KGB operatives, so Jack enlists the help of a dying Angleton, who surmises that the broadcast is part of Kholstomer. Following a sting, Jack comes face to face with Yevgeny, who not only made liquor deliveries to Philby, but also to Leo. When Jack confronts Leo with this information at his home, Leo shoots him, admitting that he joined the KGB in college, and that Adele killed herself when she found out, before phoning an ambulance for Jack and fleeing. While Jack recovers, Kholstomer leads to the 1987 stock market crash. The CIA's foreknowledge helps mitigate the damage, but the plan's biggest failure results from Starik underestimating the strength of the United States economy.
In 1991, Jack offers Yevgeny an early release from prison if he reveals Leo's location, telling him that Starik sent Azalia to the gulag, but he still has time to find her since the Soviet Union is collapsing. Yevgeny tracks down Leo, warning him before passing his whereabouts to Jack. Yevgeny visits with a ruined and senile Starik, then finally reconnects with Azalia. Jack travels to Moscow to kill Leo, but stops himself moments before Leo recognizes him. Back in DC, Torriti and Jack reminisce over their work in the Cold War, with Jack expressing misgivings over which side was good or bad. Torriti insists the CIA were the good guys, concluding with "we won, didn't we?"
- Chris O'Donnell as Jack McAuliffe
- Michael Keaton as James Jesus Angleton / "Mother"
- Alfred Molina as Harvey Torriti / "The Sorcerer"
- Tom Hollander as Kim Philby
- 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
- Ted Atherton as Frank Wisner / "The Wizard"
- Cedric Smith as DCI Allen Dulles
- Rick Roberts as DCI William Colby
- Simon Callow as MI6 liaison officer Elihu
- Antony Sher as Ezra ben Ezra, the Mossad-CIA liaison / "The Rabbi"
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.