Linda Cook review: ‘The Courier’ is a true espionage story

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This true story about courage during the Cold War is great platform for terrific Benedict Cumberbatch performance in a kind of espionage history lesson.

It’s tale about an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, and the lengths he went to serve, and possibly save, his country and, indeed, the world.

Cumberbatch is Greville Wynne, a British salesman who, in the early 1960s, is recruited by the American CIA and MI-6, the British governmental agency focused on matters of national security and overseas counter-intelligence, because he often traveled to Eastern Europe.

The unassuming man became a courier of top-secret information to London from Soviet agent Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze, television’s “Homeland.” The two become genuine friends, understanding each other’s fears for the safety of their families and their dedication to something far bigger and beyond their loved ones.

Cumberbatch, an already-slender person, lots a lot of weight to play the imprisoned Wynne – you’re likely to remember Christian Bale’s transition to a near-ghost in “The Machinist.”

I like the way real newsreel footage – including some iconic moments of then-President John F. Kennedy – helps us understand the global atmosphere at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the talk of “fallout shelters” in case nuclear weapons were launched.

Not surprisingly, Cumberbatch owns the film. It’s also nice to see Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) as another agent.

It’s not an action movie – think more “Bridge of Spies” than “Skyfall” – but rather a movie of intrigue and conversations.

The movie has had an interesting history of its own, which confused me because of its name change. I knew that a movie called “Ironbark” premiered in January 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival.

That was this movie, which underwent a name change and was supposed to be released in August of last year, then October, and finally has hit the big screen.

Fans of Cumberbatch, and historical dramas, will find it worth the wait.

3 stars

Running time: One hour and 51 minutes.

Rated: PG-13 for foul language, sexual situations and violence.

At Cinemark, Davenport.

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