Directed by Dominc Cooke and written by Tom O’Connor, The Courier is based on the true story of Grenville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) a British business man recruited in the 1960’s by MI6 and the CIA to go to Moscow and act as a go-between for them and Soviet spy Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze). Penkovsky had become increasingly concerned by the behaviour of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev which would lead to the Cuban missile crisis. Penkovsky wants to stop him and offers to share secrets and civilian business man Wynne is identified as the perfect go-between.
I’m a fan of a true life spy thriller and this put The Courier right up my street and I wasn’t disappointed. While this is a “nuts and bolts” piece of storytelling, using classic spy thriller tropes to get from beginning to end, It doesn’t matter. The story itself is fascinating enough, to keep you engaged.
The success of the film is built around two strong central performances. Cumberbatch as watchable as ever as Wynne, while Ninidze is excellent as Penkovsky, capturing the slowly building tension as both his and Wynnes position becomes increasingly risky. But it is the relationship between them that really draws you in and makes the film works. They are also well supported by the always excellent Jessie Buckley, Rachel Broshanan and Angus Wright.
The story is fascinating and one I was unaware of and that helped allowing the film to build tension and wrap you up in the fate of the characters. It is solidly made if lacking a little flair, but that’s OK. It was more important Cooke and O’Connor did the story justice and for me they succeed in that.
If you enjoy a cold war spy story then this will work for you. At its heart is the relationship between Wynne and Penkovsky, their story of bravery and friendship engages throughout. Making The Courier intriguing and very watchable.