Coming to theatres this Friday from director Dominic Cooke and Roadside Attractions comes the story of country, secrets and spying when you are THE COURIER.
Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a hard-working British engineer and businessman who travels extensively to keep wife Sheila (Jessie Buckley) and their son Andrew (Keir Hills) provided for. It is a struggle with the constant fear of the Cold War and Khrushchev (Vladimir Chuprikov) as agencies struggle to get information.
Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan) from the FBI enlists the help of MI6 and Bertrand (Anton Lesser) to work together. Especially since Russian Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) has reached out wanting to give them Russian secrets. Donovan and Bertrand reach out to Wynne with the proposition of being the courier.
At first Wynne is hesitant worrying about his wife and young son but are assured that if there is any danger, he would be immediately removed from the situation. Not being a part of the government offers him some cover. On his first trip to Moscow, he meets Oleg and a relationship begins. As the exchanges happen, a friendship also grows and at the same time things heat up between the United States and Russia.
When the friendship is put to the test, Wynne will do anything necessary to protect his family and his friend Oleg. Both decisions may cost him everything!
Cumberbatch as Wynne who is an average British citizen enjoying his work and returning home to his family. Listening to the radio with a cup of tea is everything in his world. When asked to become a courier, Cumberbatch gives us the other side of a very nervous man who wants to do what is required to keep his country safe. Cumberbatch gives us the right amount of nervous mixed with the right amount of bravery that being a courier took. I loved this role!
Ninidze as Oleg is stunning from the moment he is on the screen to the very strong scene with Wynne when it all comes to a head. Becoming friends with Wynne was probably not something Oleg thought would happen but sharing his love of ballet and even moments with his family bring these two men in a dangerous situation, normal moments as it were. Ninidze gave intense on top of intense and I could not take my gaze off of every movement he made. This is a combination of character calculation and actor calculation and they equal superb.
Brosnahan as Donovan is a woman who knows what it takes to get the information they need. She pushes hard to get everyone to cooperate, and her pushes bears more fruit than they could ever have imagined. Brosnahan is pure go-getter and each step she takes adds so much to the already intense film. Buckley as Sheila has issues with her husband being gone for long periods and so far away. Their marriage becomes shaky as a result of his secrecy and Buckley plays it strong.
Other cast include James Schofield as Cox, Fred Haig as Lee, Emma Penzina as Nina, Mariya Mironova as Vera, Charles Walter as Illya, and Angus Wright as Dickie Franks.
Roadside Attractions has, since it is found in 2003, grossed over $300M and garnered nineteen Academy Award nominations. They have had critical and commercial hits such as MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, BEN IS BACK, BEATRIZ AT DINNER, HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS, WINTER’S BONE and THE COVER as well as so many others. For more information of what Roadside Attractions has to offer please visit www.roadsideattractions.com.
THE COURIER is based on the true story of Grenville Wynne who also write two books. In 1967 with The Man From Moscow and the 1981 book The Man From Odessa. The film takes its time progressing the relationship with the US and MI6 and once Penkovsky is introduced, it is easy to see how these two men put their lives on the line.
Cumberbatch and Ninidze are just sublime in these roles and give the viewer a reason for what each of them does and why. In that alone these two actors give their characters what is needed to keep us riveted in where the story goes and true concern when it all seems to come to a dangerous and inevitable outcome.
Obviously, I’m being a little vague because, as with all films I find intriguing, I am a firm believer in seeing those details for yourself. THE COURIER is cinematically outstanding and the costuming adds to the story being told by director Cooke. A fan of period pieces, films like THE COURIER will always get my undivided attention and high praise.
In the end – he is a businessman turned spy to save us all!