IANS Review: ‘The Courier’ – Captivating Spy Drama Set During The Cold War Era
IANS Rating: *** 1/2
Movie: The Courier (2020; FilmNation Entertainment). Play on Amazon Prime.
Run Time: 112 minutes
Director: Dominic Cooke
Actors: Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan and Vladimir Chuprikov
Our opinion: a commendable drama full of intrigue. Likely to engage those who enjoy Cold War themed movies.
By Troy Ribeiro
Set in the 1960s, set against the backdrop of the American-Soviet Cold War, âThe Courierâ is the story of an ordinary âbusinessmanâ who finds himself saving the world from a nuclear crisis.
Based on real events, the film tells how London-based Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch), who claims to be just a “salesman” is recruited by two secret agents, one from the CIA and the other from the MI6, to be a part of a dangerous infiltration mission on Russian territory.
Greville is tasked with meeting ‘Ironbark’ – the code name for Colonel Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) of Soviet Military Intelligence in Moscow. Its mission is to report “some” vital information. Penkovsky’s information, “to save the world”, has proved essential in defusing Russia’s intentions to set up a nuclear missile base in Cuba.
The film, written by Tom O’Connor and directed by Dominic Cooke, who previously gave us ‘On Chesil Beach’, is not an action-packed thriller; instead, it’s conceived as a character-driven spy drama, where the warm relationship forged between the Soviet informant and the British courier, as well as the atmosphere within their families, is approached with sensitivity.
It’s touching when Wynne’s wife Sheila (Jessie Buckley) becomes suspicious of her husband having a lover due to the many times he travels to Moscow and returns accused of romantic overtures.
The storyline of the script gradually unravels a stereotypical disposition, where two well-meaning souls put their families on the line to save the world. While Greville and his family figures are well etched, Penkovsky and his family have been denied equal footage, which makes them a bit of a mystery.
On the performance side, all the actors are competent, the rendering of their characters is both brilliant and natural. Cumberbatch, in the final act as an emaciated and tonsured prisoner, brings out his characteristic histrionic. He manages to wow the audience, but his performance loses its luster due to the mismanagement of the staging.
While the first two acts go smoothly, the last act when Greville is jailed is when the narrative gets a bit choppy and the resolution isn’t convincing. It seems like rushed work. Technically, the film is well put together. With its sepia-toned frames, it captures the dull gray period well.
Overall, âThe Courierâ is a commendable drama full of intrigue and likely to interest those who enjoy Cold War-themed films.
(Troy Ribeiro will review films released in theaters and on OTT platforms. He can be contacted at [email protected])