director: Dominic Cooke (on chesil beach)
starring: benedict cumberbatch, rachel brosnahan, merab ninidze and jessie buckley
REVIEWER: lyall carter
Cold War spy Greville Wynne and his Russian source try to put an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
If I had to pick a favorite film subgenre, it would have to be spy films. Everything from 007 to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, there is nothing like being swept up into an intriguing story of espionage and political intrigue. Although The Courier doesn’t offer that much freshness to the genre, it’s still a thoroughly entertaining and thrilling story anchored by stellar performances from Cumberbatch and Ninidze.
The true story of Greville Wynne, a British businessman unwittingly recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history. Forming an unlikely partnership with a Soviet officer Oleg Penkovsky hoping to prevent a nuclear confrontation, the two men work together to provide the crucial intelligence used to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Narratively The Courier follows nearly every spy film rhythm in the book, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is no real conspiracy or mystery going on here the mission is pure and simple: get Russian information back to the British and American’s to stop nuclear holocaust.
The particularly interesting angle about this ‘based on true events’ tale is that Greville Wynne isn’t some brash guts and brawn Bond character or the intelligent mastermind spy of Le Carre’s novels, George Smiley. Wynne is a typical kinda bloke - wife, kid, kinda boring job and a little bit unfit into the bargain. So to watch him stumble and fumble his way into couriering secret Russian documents across the border is an intriguing and at times amusing and thrilling affair.
The story then descends into more well trodden tropes of the genre and although entertaining, thrilling and a completely compelling watch, a more interesting prospect would have been to have explored and given more time to Wynne’s challenges surrounding being thrown into the depths of the world of espionage.
The final act of the film, without giving too much away, is quite jarring at times and Cumberbatch and Ninidzes’ transformations are extraordinary and really hammer home for the audience that this is indeed a true story with real life consequences.
Benedict Cumberbatch once again proves his acting prowess giving a superb performance, with a tremendous transformation in personality and appearance in comparison from the beginning to the films end. Ninidze is spectacular in his humanising of the Russian double agent, giving him a character that we connect with and feel for throughout.
Although The Courier doesn’t offer that much freshness to the genre, it’s still a thoroughly entertaining and thrilling story anchored by stellar performances from Cumberbatch and Ninidze.