Film Review – The Courier (2020)

Title – The Courier (2020)

Director – Dominic Cooke (On Chesil Beach)

Cast – Benedict Cumberbatch, Jessie Buckley, Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan

Plot – Based on the true story of everyday British salesman turned spy Greville Wynne (Cumberbatch) who during the heat of the 1960’s Cold War struck up a friendship with Russian source Oleg Penkovsky (Ninidze) as the two looked to stop the threat of nuclear war from destroying the world.

“We are only two people. But this is how things change”

Review by Eddie on 06/07/2021

We’ve seen a number of Cold War based thrillers over the years, both fictional and truth and the newest edition to the Soviet littered genre is The Courier, a film that feels familiar and in many ways generic but one that also manages to tell a ripping true life tale in a way that will grip you from start to finish thanks to some smooth direction and a string of quality performances.

Feeling like an up-market BBC film that struck gold by getting talented performers Benedict Cumberbatch and the upcoming superstar Jessie Buckley in key lead roles, director Dominic Cooke explores the relationship between Cumberbatch’s usually run of the mill salesman Greville Wynne and Merab Ninidze’s Soviet spy Oleg Penkovsky, as the two kind-hearted souls look to feed both the M16 and CIA information around the Russian’s increasingly volatile nuclear program.

This is certainly not the type of Cold War thriller that features feisty fisty-cuffs or bullet filled shootouts with barely a car chase or gun in sight throughout most of the films run-time but just because Cooke doesn’t throw in action beats or more Hollywood like set pieces it doesn’t mean that The Courier is worse off, as for the most part we as an audience are totally enthralled by Wynne’s and Penkovsky’s dealings that ended up playing a key-part in the whole USA vs Russia scenario that played out in this dangerous time.

The film feels most at home and most competent when its focusing on these two men trying to do the right thing, even if their flirting with danger at every turn they make and key to this is the performances of Cumberbatch and Ninidze who make for a great duo on screen.

Taking the inexperienced Wynne under his wing, Ninidze delivers one of his most memorable turns yet as a previously one-eyed supporter of Russia and their quest for world domination and Cumberbatch is as good as his been in years as the mild-mannered but determined Wynne and his physical commitment to his role here showcases a whole new side to a performer still perhaps best known for the quintessential modern day take of Sherlock Holmes.

There’s nothing done new here and there’s nothing we haven’t seen done before when it comes to Cold War thrillers but you’d be hard pressed to not find yourself engaged in The Courier’s tale and the film serves as a stern reminder of the unsung heroes that often litter these world changing affairs.

Final Say – 

A fast paced and proficient thriller that features some strong leading turns, The Courier may not be groundbreaking stuff but its an engaging and well-made effort that delivers the goods.

3 1/2 bowls of prison food out of 5 

6 responses to “Film Review – The Courier (2020)

  1. Highly enjoyed this one as well – when Cumberbatch doesn’t try those horrible accents – he’s so good. Just as himself, playing these kinds of roles is perfect for him. Hope it stays this way.

    • I certainly felt like it was one of his best roles and performances in a few years. I wasn’t expecting much from this one heading in but really found myself enjoying it.

  2. I got a couple of trailers for this one a few months back. I’d a feeling that it would be more focused on tension and paranoia as opposed to your standard spy movie shootouts and car chases, since it focuses on a civilian doing espionage.

    I’m glad to know it’s really good and that Cumberbatch does a great job, in spite of it not doing anything new or groundbreaking in terms of Cold War espionage movies. I’ll definitely be giving it a watch.

  3. Good review. (But it’s Wynne, not Wynee.) I liked it. Not super enthusiastic, but liked it. The idea of a mild-mannered salesman becoming a vital cog in East-West relations was very interesting. It takes a dark turn that I wasn’t expecting and that kind of threw me off. It helped that I didn’t know the real-life story, until it didn’t.

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