The Courier tells the true story of Greville Wynne, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, a businessman recruited by MI6 to act as a courier between them and a high-ranking GRU officer. The film was well done and the casting was phenomenal, but, as with most dramatizations, the film treats facts the same way that a large portion of Facebook users do… as optional.
Without spoiling the story, Wynne (Cumberbatch) who travels frequently for work is recruited to act as a courier between the Soviet GRU officer, Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) and contacts at MI6 (Dickie Franks played by Angus Wright) and the CIA (Emily Donovan played by Rachel Brosnahan). Things are going smoothly at first as Wynne and Penkovsky build a friendship and keep information flowing, particularly details about Soviet activities in Cuba, but eventually everything goes sideways and the movie becomes quite interesting.
Every cast member was incredible, Cumberbatch is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors and his performance was amazing, particularly in the final scenes of the film. Brosnahan was equally impressive and brought a lot to her role, my wife has long raved about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and I think it might be time to watch it. I do, however, feel that one actor deserves more recognition in this film. Jessie Buckley plays Sheila Wynne, Greville’s wife, and she was amazing. As the wife of our protagonist who has very few scenes, she feels overlooked, but the range she portrayed throughout the movie was top notch and I feel like she should have had more billing than she did. While Cumberbatch was the clear standout in this film (as he usually is), Buckley was definitely next on my list of impressive performances.
The film provides plenty of tense moments and will draw a range of emotions from the viewer, but mostly it just keeps you on the edge of your seat, assuming, of course, that you are unfamiliar with the true story… if you know it, you might be aware of what is coming. Personally, I have a bad habit of exploring the story before I watch a biopic. In this case, that made the movie a bit of a let down with the facts that were changed, but for pure entertainment value, the movie was top notch. Had they stayed true to the story, this would have been a 5-star film.
I don’t like to spoil films in my reviews, so I won’t point out the actual mistakes in the story telling, but there are plenty of articles that detail this era on the internet. I recommend the following:
- This BBC story about Wynne from 1963.
- The Guardian obituary for Sir Arthur ‘Dickie’ Franks from 2008.
- The Guardian obituary for Gervase Cowell from 2000.
Regardless of how much of the film is true and how much is fairy tale (I still cannot find a reference to Emily Donovan being a real person), it was an entertaining movie that looked at a critical period in recent history. If you have the opportunity to watch this film, I highly recommend that you check it out.
Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions will release THE COURIER wide in theaters on March 19th, 2021
Movie title: The Courier
Movie description: THE COURIER is a true-life spy thriller, the story of an unassuming British businessman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history. At the behest of the UK’s MI-6 and a CIA operative (Rachel Brosnahan), he forms a covert, dangerous partnership with Soviet officer Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) in an effort to provide crucial intelligence needed to prevent a nuclear confrontation and defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Date published: 2021-03-19
Director(s): Dominic Cooke
Actor(s): Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan, Jessie Buckley