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The precarious quandary of high-stakes espionage
on September 28, 2015
The CIA had planned an invasion of Cuba using exile forces (housed in Florida) during the Eisenhower Administration. Then Kennedy became president and he believed if the dictator Castro remained in power, communism would spread to other Western Hemisphere nations. From erroneous intelligence, it was thought the invasion would spark a wider uprising or revolt to overthrow the communist regime. So on April 16, 1961, arriving in seven ships, the small exile army of nearly 16 hundred landed on the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. Castro was ready. It was as if he had prior knowledge of the attack. Castro's vastly superior forces killed 114 rebels and quickly captured 12 hundred. Kennedy prohibited American involvement, restricted bombing operations, and refused to authorize air cover for the invasion, because he feared Soviet Premier Khrushchev would retaliate with a counter move against West Berlin. Upon hearing the news of the disastrous failure, Kennedy was furious and fulminated that he would, "... shatter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter [them] to the winds." He fired Allen Dulles and two other top officials (Richard Bissell and Charles Cabell) and all CIA overseas personnel was put under State Department control. Kennedy was outraged, understandably, because it made his new administration and the U.S. look inept and imperialistic. The story begins in 1939 when Edward (Matt Damon) was attending Yale University. He met Laura, also a student, whom he would have married if Clover Russell (Angelina Jolie) hadn't interjected herself into his life by seducing him and becoming pregnant. How could he refuse her? She was much more attractive, but you have to feel for Laura, and sadly Edward would have been far happier with Laura (as we see later in the movie). Clover manipulated Edward to please her brother, John Russell Jr., and father, John Russell Sr., a powerful, influential senator. The Russell family had close ties with the establishment (Skull and Bones fraternal organization). The concept of a CIA was in a nascent stage, and someone was needed, with no better credentials than Edward's, to lead the organization. Their plans for Edward came to fruition. In other words, and most irksome, he was railroaded. For the CIA, Edward's role became tantamount to that of J. Edgar Hoover with the FBI. A central focus of the film is on a tape recorded exchange of information about the planned Cuban invasion before it happened between a white man and a black woman. Information was provided that only a CIA operative could have known. Edward, third in the chain of command with the CIA, was connecting the dots and conducting the investigation of this tape recording. A plethora of clues had been gathered from this recording and also from a surveillance video. Forensic evidence had narrowed the search to a specific location and possible identity of the spy who committed this treasonous act. At the beginning of the movie, all CIA agents were suspect, even Edward. The tension and paranoia and the ponderous toll it was taking on the intelligence officers was vividly portrayed. You get a clear sense of the methodical and meticulous planning involved and the interwoven connectedness of the CIA and KGB. This becomes apparent when Edward's son, also a CIA agent, was entrapped in a relationship with a female KGB spymaster for the purpose of blackmailing Edward. A cunning, Angelina, dazzled with a performance that made this very remarkable film that much better. It's a masterpiece and top ten favorite!