Courier, The

Drama | 111 Minutes

Nationwide: Friday, March 19, 2021

Roadside Attractions


for violence, partial nudity, brief strong language, and smoking throughout

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.

Cast & Crew

Movie Cast
  • Rachel Brosnahan
  • Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Jessie Buckley
  • Angus Wright
  • Merab Ninidze
Movie Crew
  • Dominic Cooke
  • Adam Ackland
  • Rory Aitken
  • Tom O'Connor

User Reviews

Public Reviews - 1 Reviews
  • Gregory M. - Rated it 3 out of 5

    "The Courier" "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 Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan), a 'CIA' operative, 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'. On 16, October 1962, President John F Kennedy is handed high-altitude photographs taken from 'U-2' planes flying over Cuba that shows 'Soviet' soldiers setting up nuclear-armed missiles on the island. 'The United States' have been tipped-off that 'The Soviet Union' is putting nuclear warheads on 'The Caribbean Island'. 'The Cuban Missile Crisis' sees the world on the brink of nuclear war. Greville Wynne has a sense of humour, doggedness, and an unexpected strength. This guy goes on an extraordinary journey. From being an ordinary businessman, one who's quite severely dyslexic, almost to the point of illiteracy, to being a conduit for 'The West' to get the most important bit of secret information during 'The Cold War' and 'The Cuban Missile Crisis'. It's about an everyday guy in the centre of that world with all these thrilling elements and this massive global political backdrop while it’s about him and his family, and he ends up trying to save the world. Wynne’s mission is to make contact with a 'Soviet' military intelligence colonel named Oleg Penkovsky. They strike up a significant friendship. Penkovsky likes him and trusts him. And Penkovsky sees that loyalty returned when Wynne tries to help him escape. Wynne returns to Moscow even after being warned that he would put himself in peril by doing so. Wynne decides that he has to help his friend Penkovsky escape. 'The KGB' catches Wynne trying to help his friend, and he's arrested on 11 May 1963, and subsequently is sentenced to 8 years in jail. And then we get the tragedy of this very ordinary man being stretched to the limits of his endurance, physically and mentally in a 'Russian Gulag'. What he endures is all the more incredible considering he isn't a trained spook and he has no background or inclination to do the work he's asked to do. He's released from jail in exchange for the spy Gordon Lonsdale (Jonathan Harden) in 1964. The prison experience changed Wynne. He falls into a state where his mental health is challenged. He becomes an alcoholic and leaves his wife. He lost his business income and so, needed money. Then there's the secrecy that's part and parcel of espionage so 'MI6' never acknowledge his work even after he's released. 'The British' government never publicly acknowledged anything he did or thanked him for what he has done. "The Courier" culminates with Wynne shaven-headed and alone in prison. The film hints that even when he's released all will not be well. He's a broken man no longer at peace with himself. Oleg Penkovsky is a legendary source that 'The Americans' have in 'The Soviet Union'. Penkovsky, codenamed 'Hero', is a 'Soviet' military intelligence colonel during the 1950s and early 1960s. Born in Vladikavkaz in 1919, his father died fighting as an officer in 'The White Army' during 'The Russian Civil War'. He has to hide parts of his past because he's related to a man who's the enemy of 'The Communists'. He has to carry this on his back. Penkovsky is able to detract attention from his family history by proving his belief in the cause by joining 'The Soviet' army. He's very well respected in the military world but after the war, no one cared about this anymore. He has all of these medals, but he's just a high-ranking bureaucrat. This guy is fearless, narcissistic and self-obsessed. He’s like a forgotten actor who wants to have a big comeback. His ego is also what make Penkovsky think he could get away with being a whistle-blower. He's convinced that this would never happen to him because he thinks he's too smart and by the time 'The Soviets' would find out, he would already be living in Montana, in 'The United States'. The friendship with Wynne blossoms so quickly because they've shared experiences. They understand how much they both risked. There's a need to give each other support. It's quite interesting the idea that if you've someone and you do have a family and it matters to you, how do you manage when a big chunk of your life is off-limits. One of the things that push Penkovsky and Wynne together in the film is that they both share this problem. Sheila (Jessie Buckley) is Wynne's wife. There's hardly any information about Sheila at all. Sheila has to constantly keep a lid on her emotions. There are a lot of suppressed emotions in the sixties, especially a housewife who's unhappy and unfulfilled in life. Everything is smoke screens and smiles behind pained eyes. Basically, lots of quiet moments which are interrupted with sharp sips of martinis. Emily, 'The CIA' operative comes up with the idea of using Wynne to get information out of Moscow. She's a composite of a few of the real-life 'CIA' officers who worked the Wynne and Penkovsky operation. Emily is fictional, in the sense that at the time, the officers who worked on this operation are all men. Being a woman operating in a very patriarchal world, Emily has to be very strategic and clever to get her own way. Emily needs to use plenty of wiles to manipulate the men around her. Her male superiors need to believe that they're calling the shots even when they're implementing plans conjured up by Emily. Is it patriotism alone? Is it a desire to prove her worth in a male-dominated world, or even a male-dominated profession? Did she have a personal connection to this war that drove her? To get what she wants, Emily must appear non-threatening. That’s largely a period thing, but also a battle that women still fight today. Emily believes that she’s the smartest person in the room or at the very least, she has something valuable to This film is about the history of 'Russian American' espionage. There’s a long history of successful great 'Cold War' thrillers, the difference here's that rather than being about inscrutable people with inscrutable motives it has a clear emotional heart, and it's essentially about a relationship between two men who did something extraordinary. In October 1962, 'Soviet' ballistic missiles were being deployed in Cuba. President Kennedy demanded their removal. When Khruschev refused, both sides began preparations for a nuclear war. For 13 days, a policy of brinksmanship saw the world facing the threat of nuclear war. The world was going to end. People crowding into churches who had never been to church. This sent many around the world into a state of panic. The world sort of held its breath, it’s not just a fight between two countries, it’s every country in between them that would be affected. The film incorporates the crisis into the screenplay. Just trying to get a sense of that fear and helplessness that people felt that the world might end and there's not a 'God' damn thing we can do about it. You had ships sailing to Cuba with missiles, you had 'The Americans armed and ready and you had everybody hovering over buttons and codes. It only takes a few hotheads in charge of the codes, a few polarised opinions and people shutting off and not having a dialogue for catastrophe to happen. A generation had passed since the end of 'The Second World War', and new functional architecture had been appearing around the globe. The clothes were changing, but the swinging sixties had yet to arrive. The film shows the competition between 'The Soviet Union' and 'The United States'. Both superpowers were pursuing initiatives trying to demonstrate that their way of doing things created a better life for their citizens and more advanced technology. There's this big epic feeling of the architecture during that time because of the competition between the two countries, particularly in the sixties with 'Brutalist' architecture and 'Soviet' architecture. There was no nuclear war that such a scenario was not only feasibl but that many feared it would be inevitable. "The Courier" seems to be part of our history. The drama feels immediate and visceral. In the past four years, with Korea, Trump, China, and the pulling up all the old nuclear treaties between Russia and America, "The Courier" feels a little bit urgent in a rather scary way. (written by Gregory Mann)

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