The Courier

By Joanna Langfield

Several films acknowledging the efforts of ordinary citizens surreptitiously aiding in a war effort have gone under the radar lately. I hope that does not happen to this one.

Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor whose range broadens with each part he selects, plays a British salesman, recruited by the M16 and CIA to penetrate the Soviet nuclear program during the Cold War. His Greville Wynne seems like a goofy man, perhaps an odd choice to bring in a possible Russian double agent. If we don’t get that point, some rather annoying, doubly goofy music underscores it. Director Dominic Cooke’s take feels rather off, until Wynne begins to get the hang of what he’s been tasked to do. And then, as he forges a real friendship with counterpart Oleg Penkovsky, we begin to see him in a different, more impressive, light. Soon, sadly, we also discover, perhaps as he did, the man’s true grit, along with the sense of morality that makes this courier more committed, even more heroic than the professionals who surround him.

Cumberbatch is fast becoming one of the most interesting actors of his generation. I’ve seen him do everything from Shakespeare to superhero and he brings a wise validity to each and every role. Supported here by a lean and game Rachel Brosnahan, who plays a CIA agent smarter than most of the boys, and the impressive Merab Ninidze, as the Soviet worried about his country’s plans to attack Cuba, each doesn’t just understand but reminds us of the personal and professional sacrifices men and women can make for their country, and they do so with compassion and true appreciation.