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Courier, The


Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Jessie Buckley, Rachel Brosnahan, Angus Wright, James Schofield, Anton Lesser

Director: Dominic Cooke

A frequently tense Cold War spy thriller that unfortunately loses momentum towards the end. It's 1960, and the Cuban Missile crisis is reaching dangerous levels, when the West is contacted by a top Soviet official, Oleg Penkovsky (Ninidze), who offers to give them vital secret information because he 'wishes to prevent all-out nuclear war'. Naturally, he and his family would then hope to defect before his 'treachery' is discovered.

As the all-important courier between the two sides, US and Allied intelligence (Wright, Brosnahan) selects Greville Wynne (Cumberbatch), a much-travelled, slightly pompous businessman in his early forties because he is, well, an ordinary middle-aged businessman, and (they hope) unlikely to come under suspicion.

He is unable to tell anyone, even his wife (an embarrassingly miscast Buckley), although she soon begins to smell a rat, thinking his trips to Moscow are the cloak to hide another affair, especially since her husband is constantly on edge.

Cumberbatch is outstanding as the unlikely spy (it's a true story), but the rest of the acting is not of the same standard, although the dangers of what is going on are expertly stressed by writer and director alike.

David Quinlan

UK/Czech Republic 2020. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Colour by Company 3.
112 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 15 Aug 2021