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Review: The Courier (2021)

5 Star.png
5 Star.png

#Cinema, #Film, #movie review

David North-Martino

Aug 31, 2021

Review: The Courier (2021)

The Courier premiered in 2020 as Ironbark at the Sundance Film Festival and eventually was released under its new name and then made it to home video on August 13, 2021. The film is a historical spy drama and is based on a true story. 

Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange) plays Greville Wynne, a British businessman who assisted the CIA and MI6 smuggle intelligence on the nuclear program out of Soviet Russia. 

Greville is out of shape, drinks too much, and has also had an affair. He’s given a chance at a redemption of sorts by CIA officer Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan—The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and MI6 Officer Dickie Franks (Angus Wright—Official Secrets) who assure him his work behind the Iron Curtain won’t be dangerous. As a businessman, he has the perfect cover and would never be suspected. They urge him to do what he does best—business. While ferrying Russian secrets back to the West. 

His contact is Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze—Nowhere in Africa) a Russian colonel with growing concerns that Nikita Khrushchev will start World War III. The two men become confidants and friends, and their relationship is the highlight of the movie. 

Donovan, Greville’s CIA contact, is a composite of more than one person but especially Janet Chisholm, the wife of a British visa officer based in Moscow and a conduit for Penkovsky’s information. The fictional Donovan doesn't distract from the real-life proceedings, only enhances the drama. Director (Dominic Cooke—The Hollow Crown) keeps Donovan true to the period while crafting a strong female character who adds a needed feminine touch. Brosnahan breathes life into Donovan and delivers a solid performance. 

Cumberbatch is brilliant here playing a fish out of water, an everyman turned hero. At no time did I see Cumberbatch the actor. The man on the screen is Greville Wynne. Cumberbatch even lost weight to play the part. As a matter of fact, Cumberbatch gets lost in this role, so absorbed that it’s easy to forget this is only a movie. Truly, an award-winning performance. 

Jessie Buckley (Beast) plays Sheila Wynne, Greville’s long-suffering wife who worries he’s having an affair again as he can’t let her in on his derring-do. Casting is wonderful and care was taken to make sure everyone looked like their real-life counterparts. 

Period costuming and settings are impeccable, nothing to break the illusion for the close to two-hour runtime. 

Since I began writing reviews, it’s been unusual for me to have nothing critical to note, but the crafting of this film by all involved blew me away. If you’re looking for a fast-paced spy thriller, you won’t find it here. If your cup of tea is a historical drama, I dare say you’ll find none better this year. I give The Courier my highest recommendation. 

The Courier is streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Story Doctoring:

As stated above, I have nothing critical to say about this film. I don’t think it can be improved. Just watch and enjoy. 

Rating: Five out of five stars. 

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