Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: Cold War spy Greville Wynne and his Russian source try to put an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Review: It’s been a while since I’ve watched a spy thriller based on a true story. I think the last I remember was Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which fully delivered on its thrilling tale of espionage. My memory of that movie, and of course the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr Strange/Sherlock), is what drew me to this movie which tells the true story of Greville Wynne. He was an engineer and salesman who was living a very ordinary life until one day he’s approached by both MI5 and the CIA to become their middleman and transport information from a Russian colonel, Oleg Penkovsky, that may assist them in preventing World War III.
Another stellar spy movie that came to mind while watching this was Bridge of Spies, as The Courier takes place in a similar (or maybe the same) period when Russia and the United States were in a constant state of fear, with each country basically waiting for the other to launch a nuclear attack. That sense of fear comes through in spades due to the amazing score by Abel Korzeniowski. The musical choices amped up my levels of tension from the very beginning and, combined with the beautiful cinematography of Sean Bobbitt, completely immersed me in this thriller.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Greville Wynne plays the role of smooth-talking salesman convincingly. It makes sense that a salesman would make for a great spy as they tend to know what to say (and what not to) when they’re trying to convince someone to pick up what they’re putting out. But he also grows in the role and his chemistry with Merab Ninidze, who plays a colonel who sees the dangers of what his leaders are doing, is grounded and honest to the point where you will believe he would sacrifice everything to save him. Speaking of Ninidze, while I’m not familiar with his work in the past, I’m most definitely going to look out for him in the future as his performance here outshines everyone, including Cumberbatch himself. Again, I’m taken back to Bridge of Spies, where a similar stellar performance was given by Mark Rylance, who played a character very much like this one. Both men pull you in completely, to the point where every moment they’re sacrificing their safety fills you with dread.
The movie is strongest when it focuses on these two men, but I also have to commend the editing and pacing by director Dominic Cooke. The Cuban Missile Crisis was before my time, and although I have read articles on it here and there, I never truly understood how very close the world came to actually engaging in another world war. Cooke and screenwriter Tom O’Connor do a great job of explaining how these events unfolded without being overly complicated, and I appreciated that immensely. There’s also a very clear picture painted of the manipulations and lies that government agencies are willing to engage in to get the job done, but that’s a whole other kind of article, so I’ll just stick to this one.
The Courier may not reinvent the wheel when it comes to these types of espionage films, but I honestly don’t think they needed to. What we have here is a taut thriller with great characters and a sense of scope that feels both large and small. There are world-impacting stakes here, but there’s also the dangers faced by the men on the ground and their families (they also do a fine job in emotionally connecting you to these people) who may have to pay the ultimate price for keeping world peace. I’m putting this one squarely in the win column.
Sommer’s Score: 7.5 out of 10
For Featured Writer Alice’s review of Cuban Cold War drama Wasp Network you can click here. Or for more Benedict Cumberbatch you can check out Editor Jules’s Top 4 Reasons Sherlock is one of the best shows on TV you can click here.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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