As far as true stories go, the courier is out of this world. During the Cold War, MI6 hired an engineer and businessman with no formal or informal training and, most importantly, no experience dealing with dangerous KBG agents. Greville Wynne was recruited because of his regular dealings and frequent travel to Eastern Europe, which allowed him to relay messages between a Russian mole, Oleg Penkovsky, and British intelligence.
In short, even before it receives the Hollywood treatment, there are numerous elements of suspense and intrigue in this storey. The Cold War backdrop is a particularly enticing era for writers and filmmakers to imbue with dramatic, hyperbolized imagery detailing sophisticated espionage and classic old world noir charm. The mystique of the Kremlin and the methods used by spies during this nostalgic era have made for excellent, enthralling film fodder. As a result, “The Courier” is, for lack of a better word, boring.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Wynne in a role that is unimaginative but always welcome. The acclaimed actor has portrayed a brilliant mathematician, the most famous detective in history with iconic quirks, and a neurosurgeon turned Marvel superhero with mystical abilities and a brilliant intellect. A smart businessman with a straightforward profession and an otherwise uninteresting personal life is a cinch for Cumberbatch, a role that the actor, who can be charming without doing much heavy lifting, can – and does – sleepwalk through. Despite a stellar cast that includes Rachel Brosnahan as a CIA agent leading the mission’s charge alongside MI6 and Merab Ninidze, an actor born in the Soviet Union in 1965, as Penkovsky, “The Courier” starts too slowly and never finds the momentum needed to hook audiences and reach any kind of crescendo.
A fascinating story ‘ The courier ‘
Wynne’s storey, however fascinating, is almost too simple, too uncomplicated. That fact may slip through your mind for much of the film, jolting you out of the trance of smooth viewing. The storey follows a narrow path with few deviations from the facts for outrageous, metaphorical dreams or dark and sinister subplots detailing the horrors that undoubtedly occurred during this time period. Wynne is also unremarkable, and in real life, MI6 would have chosen a boring, ordinary man who repels suspicion to take on the high-risk role of an international espionage courier. However, filmmaking is all about angles, and this one doesn’t even try to give us anything other than head-on and starkly lit shots.
We begin in 1960 in London. The communist country known as the USSR at the time is plotting something, hidden behind strict borders and a state of constant suspicion. Intelligence agencies all over the world are scrambling for information on their upcoming plans. This is where Wynne comes in, initially as a one-time intermediary, travelling to Eastern Europe as he normally would for business. While there, he accepts and transports a message from a Soviet official eager to undermine his suffocatingly corrupt government, which has plans for certain devastation.
A nice and easy to understand story
Like Wynne, Penkovsky is a family man who felt compelled to act. Whether or not it is based on their actual relationship, the film depicts their interactions in a sweet and bromantic light. Trips to the opera, fine dining, and visits to each other’s families When Cumberbatch and Ninidze aren’t together, the storey stalls, stuttering through red tape and dry, informational inserts meant to fill the audience in rather than challenge their critical thinking skills.
To put it bluntly, this is exactly what “The Courier” lacks: intellectual stimulation. There isn’t much speculation or subtle, almost imperceptible implications. The bad guys and good guys are obvious and stay in their respective lanes. The film makes few assumptions about Wynne and Penkovsky as people and keeps them on a one-dimensional plane. We never feel tested by the subject on screen; nothing is ever above our heads, and, honestly, isn’t that the fun of political thrillers: feeling like these people truly know more than you and will find the solution in a way you couldn’t have predicted?
However, there is nothing “wrong” with this film. If you enjoy historical dramas and light suspense, you will undoubtedly enjoy this one. The acting is superb, and the true storey of how one ordinary man contributed to the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis is incredible. It’s a topic your father will undoubtedly enjoy discussing in greater depth, so bring him along when you brave boredom and dive into “The Courier.”
The courier | Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @njtimesofficial. To get latest updates