I think that by now you know the rule that any movie with Benedict Cumberbatch will be worth watching. And The Courier, based on real events, is one of those movies. Surprisingly casual and upbeat for a Cold War spy drama, it’s easy to watch and follow. This is a big production which means the cinematography, sets, and costumes will be all top-notch. A perfect immersive experience for all of you who are craving some period dramas.
I don’t know why but ever since I saw the television show The Americans I find each movie about the Cold War a bit underwhelming. I mean, I know they had six fucking seasons to build that narrative and atmosphere but still. So, if this period is something that interests you, I highly recommend watching that tv show. While we’re on this subject I also have to mention Spielberg’s 2015 spy thriller Bridge of Spies. It’s also based on a true story and features an ordinary guy caught up in all the secret stuff.
Cumberbatch was fucking phenomenal here and made The Courier a much more engaging experience. Especially towards the end when the story sort of fizzles out and we have to sit through scenes we’ve seen a thousand times before. Cumberbatch, Jessie Buckley, and Merab Ninidze carried this movie ’till the end, and only because of their committed performances it managed to stay afloat.
Meet Greville Wynne, a charming businessman doing whatever he can to broker the next big deal. It’s the sixties and he has his eyes set on the prize in the form of the several underdeveloped countries of the Eastern Block. At the same time in Moscow, General Penkovsky is fearing that Khrushchev might plunge the planet into nuclear war. He decides to provide information to the Western countries and this is where Wynne comes in…
I don’t think we’ll ever know what really happened in this case. The Courier tried its best to paint a complete picture of what was going on but with these spy things, that’s really difficult. What’s important here is that the main narrative is interesting and able to keep your attention. This is an example of an old-school spy movie. Something that can be felt through steady pacing and storytelling. And I really appreciate the running time of around an hour and forty minutes. Sometimes these period movies can drag on for two and a half hours boring the shit out of you.
Finally, if you’re looking for similar movies, I recommend you check out Thirteen Days starring Kevin Costner following the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis as they unfolded. Additionally, we have not one but two spy thrillers also starring Cumberbatch: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Imitation Game. And you know the rule.