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'Company' Man on Call

August 9, 2007 By:
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The "Company" he keeps says a lot about director Mikael Salomon.

His hands-on work for the third and final episodes of HBO's "Band of Brothers" had the Emmy Award voters banding together to hand him its best of the best while his "Rome" ruminations were a Caesar salad of insight and incendiary storytelling.

And now the director of cable's "The Grid" girds for more huzzahs as "The Company," the original cable series about the CIA, sees its way to acclaim as it continues this Sunday night at 8 -- with the premiere repeating at various times -- on TNT.

How much more explosive can one get than examining the Bay of Pigs as episode two of the three-parter does with Castro cushioned among the many topics delved into?

Baby, it's cold outside -- and the Cold War gets the big chill treatment at the hands of Salomon, who considers this triptych into global chicanery -- concluding Aug. 19 -- "three different movies with three different looks."

"The three nights are very different, emotionally, content-wise, and they still tie together," bound more as "a brain thriller than an action thriller."

It's a no-brainer to know that the Cold War -- in which the U.S. and USSR traded tricks and treachery as double-agents singlehandedly took on roles that undermined and overshadowed each country -- was spy spice for the heated entanglement between democracy and communism during the 40-year war as depicted on screen.

The spy who loved me? For those who missed the Cuban Missile Crisis or thought Khruschev's attempt to get into shoe business while at the United Nations were exaggerated tall tales told by their bubbas and zaydes, there's a danger to romanticizing the eerie era, when iron curtains clanged shut on freedom fighters and nuked dinners were the meal du danger at White House emergency sessions to sort out the Dr. Strangeloves of the world.

Ultimately, history took a hammer to the hammer-and-sickle cycle that engulfed the Soviet Union for so many decades, but "The Company" goes far beyond the reds versus red-white-and-blue approach, and the initial shock at seeing the CIA and KGB at war with each other.

Going Global
Ever the good shepherd in bringing substance to the screen, the Danish Jewish director daringly turns the heat up on the thermonuclear era, going global, understanding that being in the midst of the Cold War was far different from being an outsider once it's over.

"I think in the end, the question remains -- what really happened? Was it worth it? Did we all make these sacrifices and what for?" he says

Giving history a what-for is not his mission; giving it his best shot is. Foremost among Salomon's own memories of East-West contretemps is the Cuban missile crisis, at a time when he was just a child in Denmark.

Markedly, it left its own footprint on his memories as more than a mere footnote of the times: "I thought [the crisis] would never get as far as it did."

As far as his own family is concerned, the director directs his attention to a different time of terror that took its toll on his family. "My father, who is Jewish, had to flee the Nazis for Sweden in 1945."

And, now, the filmmaker whose three-part series tries to add a piece of harmony to the understanding of the compass conflict that were East-West worries, knows from a personal perspective that, yes, one film can make a difference.

It did for him. Says Salomon, "I never understood the Holocaust until I saw 'Schindler's List.' "


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