Reel Reviews | The Courier

By Charles Kirkland Jr.

The intense tale of a businessman who became a spy and possibly saved the world comes to light as Benedict Cumberbatch plays Greville Wynne in The Courier.

In 1960, during a time when relations between the Soviet Union and the United States threatened to destroy the world, an English businessman, Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) is enlisted by a joint group of the CIA and MI-6 to ferret out intelligence from a Russian source.  Wynne is told by his handlers that he can tell no one about what he is doing, not even his wife, Sheila (Jessie Buckley).  Greville then is trained in “tradecraft” to meet and receive documents from Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze).  Tradecraft that he must follow to the letter in order to not be caught because if he is caught…    

Written by Tom O’Connor (The Hitman’s Bodyguard) and directed by Dominic Cooke (The Hollow Crown), The Courier is based on the true story of Wynne and Penkovsky and how their work helped to avert the Cuban Missile Crisis.  It stars Cumberbatch, Buckley, and Ninidze along with Rachel Brosnahan and Angus Wright.

Dominic Cooke, who was a London theater director, does a sufficient job in what appears to be his second feature-length film.  He frames well and moves the story along and creates the appropriate amount of tension and suspense to keep the movie interesting.

Benedict Cumberbatch is captivating as the businessman who is walking the edge, lying to his wife, and eventually must survive the story.  The already slender actor withers himself even more for some intense scenes to a point where he could almost be skeletal.  He is impressive as he plays the everyday man who feels a duty when he is called to service who even when challenged never waivers from his course.

Rachel Brosnahan plays a CIA agent who alternates between genuine concern for Wynne and dedication to the completion of the mission.  It is really good to see her stretching herself beyond her breakout character in the Marvelous Ms. Maisel.  (She starred in the Amazon mob movie, I’m Your Woman last year but this movie was completed first.)   Brosnahan has done better work but she doesn’t detract from the movie.

Rated PG-13 for violence, partial nudity, brief strong language, and smoking throughout, The Courier is a taut and suspenseful spy thriller with a little of Shawshank Redemption thrown it to boot.  It is a little educational and a little inspirational and most of all a little bit of good entertainment.

The Courier is available on-demand on Prime Video. 

Grade:  B-