- Hamish Hart
The Courier (2021) Review
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
CUMBERBATCH is back as he delivers one of his most profound, morbid performances as an unsung hero of the Cold War in a standout hit that will put the English actor back in the eyes of the Academy.
Based on true events, international businessman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) is recruited by MI6 agents to travel to Russia and exchange information with their Soviet Union source, Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), which will potentially put an end to the impending Cuban Missile Crisis.
There are a few key aspects that go into creating an effective thriller: an engaging story, well-written characters and good performances. Even if one of these elements fails, it can turn a film from an instant classic to a forgetful failure. Thankfully for The Courier, each component stays on par with each another, creating a well-balanced structure and pace over the course of two hours.
Having a film being based on incredible true events is never a bad thing, especially considering the high stakes and traumatising experiences Greville Wynne went through during the Cold War in order to protect his family and the world.
Whether it is the risk of passing through international borders or maintaining a low-profile from KGB, the pace never simmers and always keeps the audience engaged as they want to see the civilian-turned-spy succeed.
Greville Wynne isn't the only well-written character in the film though, with MI6 agent Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan) being an interesting and firm inclusion as she continually believes in Wynne and his seemingly-impossible odds. However, she isn't quite as good as Oleg Penkovsky, who turned out to be a surprisingly-relatable and engaging character thanks to his evolving friendship with Wynne that is only enhanced by the extraordinary performances delivered by Cumberbatch and Ninidze.
Eloquent characters can only go so far if the actors and actresses behind are unable to effectively express their emotions - and needless to say that everybody played their part well.
No matter how large or small their role was, every actor and actress did a satisfactory job in The Courier. Brosnahan, Ninidze and Angus Wright all excelled in their respective roles, but the film absolutely belonged to the chemistry between Cumberbatch and his on-screen wife Jessie Buckley.
Cumberbatch and Buckley played-off one another in such a natural and profound manner, perfectly conveying the emotional standpoints each were going through, with Cumberbatch being stressed beyond belief that he cannot tell his wife about the mission while Buckley dissolves from a light-hearted wife to a pessimistic person concerned for her husband and son's safety - emotionally and physically.
The Courier brings to light a lot of the darkness that surrounded the Cold War in an effective thriller that is carried by standout performances courtesy of Cumberbatch, Buckley and Ninidze. In the end, Dominic Cooke and company do a solid job at telling a tragic, heroic story best viewed with minimal expectations.