If You Have What It Takes

The Courier
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan, Keir Hills, Vladimir Chuprikov, Jessie Buckley and Angus Wright
Director: Dominic Cooke
Scriptwriter: Tom O’Connor
Composer: Abel Korzeniowski
Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt
42, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions
Rating: PG 13 for violence, and themed material
Running Length: 112 Minutes 

Benedict Cumberbatch can be many things on the screen.  Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Savage and now, Greville Wynne, British diplomat turned spy for the British government. In each role, there is something different to be remembered about Cumberbatch. Sherlock Holmes was quick on the quip and fast on the scent, Dr. Savage was superhuman energy in the world, and now Greville Wynne, a quiet, grey-ish type of man, quick to speak, who could slip into a different world unnoticed. Such is the story of intrigue during the Cold War and about the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

“The Courier” is based on a true story. Greville Wynne (Cumberbatch) is a British business man, likes to play golf and is married to Sheila (Jessie Buckley) and they have a son, Andrew (Keir Hills.) Out of the blue, Wynne is asked to lunch by a friend (Angus Wright) and meets an American (Rachel Brosnahan) where they entice Wynne to become an agent for the British government. Before you can gasp, Wynne is on his way, with an “explanation” for travels and a wife left to wonder.  He is out of his realm here, and could be caught. Wynne meets a Russian Colonel, Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) who has important information, and  actually becomes a friend.  The Colonel is afraid that his government head, Khrushchev (Vladimir Chuprikov) wants to start a nuclear war. What to do….and then this is decided in a stellar moment. The U.S. is heading into the Cuban Missile Crisis time, with President Kennedy at the American helm. The clock keeps ticking. 

This storyline is a familiar one, person becomes spy---takes chances---others are involved---life becomes precarious. There are moments, though, when the greyness of the film leaves, to reveal, a friendship between Wynne and the Russian Colonel, and they find they have things in common. This is a dangerous life, though and we see what can happen to others, rightly, or falsely accused of spying. Life can turn from pleasant to the extreme in a matter of seconds. Endurance becomes your middle name and Gulag and cringe-worthy, added to your vocabulary. I liked the photography by Sean Bobbitt that shows the principals from various angles, up close and then far away, for a different perspective. 

Benedict Cumberbatch does a good job as Greville Wynne, with facial expressions appropriate to the occasion. He always has a superior sense about him,  but it is Merab Ninidze as Oleg, the Russian Colonel, who manages to steal his scenes with unexpected warmth as a person who doesn’t trust his own government. Who plays Nikita Khrushchev?  Vladimir Chuprikov has the job here.  For Cumberbatch fans, you will not be disappointed 


Copyright 2021 Marie Asner