THE COURIER was an intense spy thriller that will keep your attention
THE COURIER (2021)
The Courier stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Jessie Buckley, and Rachel Brosnahan. The movie is marketed as a spy thriller and is set during the 1960s at the height of the Cold War. After watching the trailer, The Courier looked to be similar to Bridge of Spies and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I’m partial to a suspenseful spy movie, so I couldn’t wait to see The Courier.
Director Dominic Cooke helmed The Courier. Cooke has previously directed a few National Theatre Live segments as well as On Chesil Beach, the intricate romance starring Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle. A period piece spy movie was an interesting choice for Cooke, but he proved adept at handling such a story. The pacing was spot on for a movie of this type. It lagged just a bit towards the beginning but Cooke managed to build tension steadily throughout and gave us enough detail to keep us interested, without giving too much away. The directorial style wasn’t anything that stood out, but Cooke did well enough to get the job done and move the story along.
The Courier is based on the true story of Gerville Wynne, an English businessman turned spy. He frequently travels to Eastern Europe for work, so he’s approached by Dickie Franks, the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, and Emily Donovan who is with the CIA. They ask Gerville to make contact with a Soviet military colonel named Oleg Penkovsky. He does this and also begins smuggling documents out of the Soviet Union under the guise of being a businessman. This relationship goes on for quite some time, until suspicions arise about both Gerville and Oleg. The plot only lags briefly, but it picks up immediately and you are zipped through this secret mission at a nice pace. A spy thriller set during the Cold War makes for a compelling plot line, and it is enhanced by the performances on display.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Benedict Cumberbatch carries most of The Courier. He’s in almost every scene and is phenomenal. Cumberbatch is able to successfully pull off the “average citizen” look with a tiny mustache. He does an excellent job of displaying the mounting stress on Greville as he progresses further into his role of a spy. Jessie Buckley plays Greville’s wife, Sheila. Buckley always gives strong performances, and she is memorable here as well. Her life was disrupted by this spy game just as much as Greville’s was; at one point she thinks Greville is cheating on her because he is acting so odd. Angus Wright is noteworthy as Dickie Franks and has good chemistry with Rachel Brosnahan who has a small part playing Emily Donovan. The truly memorable performance comes from Merab Ninidze as Oleg Penkovsky. He’s under the most intense pressure being the mole, and he manages to infuse Oleg with compassion and humanity. Ninidze and Cumberbatch play off of each other extraordinarily well, and you want to see both men make it out in one piece.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
The make-up and design got the job done here at making you feel like you were in the 1960s. The costuming was well constructed, and the buildings and sets transported you to the Cold War era. The design team did an excellent job of differentiating between when Greville was in England and when he was in the Soviet Union. The tones and colors shifted, making it clear when he was behind the Iron Curtain.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The music was composed by Abel Korzeniowski who has a host of big name credits including Nocturnal Animals, Penny Dreadful, and the 2013 version of Romeo and Juliet. The music is subtle, creating suspense when necessary and giving just enough to keep your attention focused on the movie. Nothing really stood out to me too much, but Korzeniowski gets the job done and makes the music work with the overall themes and storylines.
The Courier was an intense spy thriller that will keep your attention, particularly if you’re interested in the 1960s and the Cold War. Worthwhile performances from Cumberbatch and Ninidze keep the characters exciting. It helps that this is based on a true story, so history buffs will like that aspect, and it makes the movie a bit more realistic and suspenseful. The Courier is very entertaining and a fun take on the spy genre.
Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions will release THE COURIER wide in theaters on March 19th, 2021