The Courier: Film Review

The Courier


I do love me a spy thriller and I certainly love films based on fascinating true stories, but sadly The Courier was a bit too dull to keep me fully engaged.

In this drama, based on real events, Benedict Cumberbatch plays British businessman Greville Wynne, who frequently flies to Eastern Europe. In 1960, he is recruited by MI6 to pretend to be the business partner of Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), a Soviet military intelligence colonel, and transport top-secret information regarding the Soviet nuclear programme back to London, providing crucial intelligence which helped end the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Period espionage thrillers like these are largely made into TV series nowadays so I’m glad this one was made into a feature length film, because I found it pretty dull for a large part of the first hour so I don’t know how it would have been stretched out over several hours. It took a while to get going, I didn’t fully understand what was going on and I struggled to get into it or get invested in what was happening. I was never bored; I always curious about what was about to go down, but it just didn’t excite me or hook me in. Thankfully, my patience was rewarded and the film got more and more interesting as Wynne took more risks, the stakes got higher, and his visits to Russia felt increasingly more dangerous.

Cumberbatch is always a solid performer and he proved that once again with The Courier, once titled Ironbark. He gave a suitably nervy performance as a man who has to act like a normal salesman while under intense pressure. His commitment to the role actually shocked me – his physical transformation made me gasp; his weight loss was astounding. Cumberbatch and Ninidze deserve major kudos for their dedication to their parts.

I was worried Jessie Buckley‘s talents would be wasted in her supporting role as Wynne’s wife but thankfully her character had a lot to do and had some emotional heavy lifting that gave her the chance to shine. Elsewhere in the cast, I also liked Rachel Brosnahan as CIA agent Emily Donovan, who is working with MI6. She is professional but compassionate and cares about the people as well as the mission.

The Courier tells a terrific true story about remarkable men who ultimately smuggled more than 5,000 top-secret documents out of Russia. It’s a shame the film takes so long to get exciting but it really excels in the latter half.

In cinemas Friday 13th August

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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