Movie: The Courier
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Angus Wright, Anton Lesser, Merab Ninidze, Vladimir Chuprikov
Censor Certificate: UA
Release Date: 19 Mar 2021
Duration: 1 hr 51 mins
Even though espionage buffs may find some of the genre tropes familiar, ‘The Courier’ is an enjoyable old-fashioned thriller that does not need to exaggerate to impress.
Based on a true story of Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch), who was used as a courier between the MI6, CIA, and a Russian mole Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) during the Cold War.
Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) is, for all practical purposes, an ordinary businessman. The unassuming Britisher entertains his Eastern European clients as he tries to fend for his wife Sheila (Jessie Buckley) and son back home. So, when he’s recruited by CIA agent Emily (Rachel Brosnahan), his reaction is childish delight. As he begins to work with Russian colonel Oleg Penkovsky, a spy under the codename Ironbark, the pair builds a friendship while keeping up appearances. This is put to the test when Wynne tries to help Penkovsky defect from the Soviet and ends up getting imprisoned in the bargain.
The film’s emotional core relies on the connection between Oleg and Greville. Their bond is delicately captured by the performances of Merab Ninidze and Benedict Cumberbatch, respectively. The always reliable Cumberbatch commits to the inspiring lead role with his commanding presence. Ninidze takes a restrained approach but displays more range in the process. Even though Jessie Buckley’s role as Greville’s wife is standard, her performance makes Sheila far more fascinating to watch. Rachel Brosnahan plays a fictional character Emily, but the actress adds many layers to the CIA agent.
Written by Tom O’ Connor and directed by Dominic Cooke, ‘The Courier’ certainly takes some liberties with the retelling of actual events. The premise is familiar as spy thrillers go, but Cooke’s vision is conveyed clearly by the film’s editing and pacing to a large extent, other than the climax, which may not work for everyone. The score and cinematography place you firmly in the 60s, adding to the gravity of the Cold War leading up to the Cuban missile crisis. Even though espionage buffs may find some of the genre tropes familiar, ‘The Courier’ is an enjoyable old-fashioned thriller that does not need to exaggerate to impress.