By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Now available for viewing via Premium Video on Demand, The Courier tells the compelling true story of British businessman Greville Wynne, a mostly unassuming salesman recruited as a spy during the Cold War and how his work with Russian secret agent Oleg Penkovsky helped defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch (as Wynne) and Merab Ninidze (as Penkovsky), the movie offers audiences a palpable and intense espionage thriller that shows the toll such work can take on the people involved. Director Dominic Cooke, an English writer/director who has mostly worked in theater shows that he has the chops to handle some viable feature film work.

During the early 1960s, both the British MI6 and the US CIA worked feverishly to keep tabs on the activities of the USSR, in particular their nuclear arms program. Utilizing spies on both sides, these intelligence organizations shared valuable informaton overseas to help prevent the escalation of the nuclear arms race. Both the MI6 and CIA recruit the seemingly benign and very personable Greville Wynne to travel to Russia regularly, under the guise of a business deal, to exchange information with contact Oleg Penkovsky, a Soviet intelligence officer, who feels that his government has gone too far. As both Wynne and Penkovsky proceed with this strategy, they both put their lives and marriages on the line to make sure relations between the United States and the USSR never devolve into a full scale nuclear war.

Written by Tom O’Connor, Dominick Cooke’s film is most definitely a tense and riveting drama and thriller that honors the sacrifices made by both Geville Wynne and Oleg Penkovsky who both courageously worked together to keep England and the USA well-informed of the Soviet’s activities and strategies during the Cold War. The film is certainly indicative that even the most unlikely of persons on this planet is capable of making a difference if given the chance to prove himself. Had Greville Wynne had not been recruited by MI6, he probably would’ve proceeded about his business and life without a direct stake in the crisis and perhaps, things would’ve ended more tragically.

Both Benedict Cumberbatch and Merab Ninidze perform superbly in their roles and share a genuine chemistry as both friends and colleagues. The movie also stars Jessie Buckley as Greville’s wife Sheila, a loving and caring spouse who begins to suspect that something is very wrong about her husband’s Russian business trips. The film also features a great performance by Rachel Brosnahan as CIA officer Emily Donovan, one of the agents overseeing and working with Wynne.

The Courier has already been playing in theaters, but if one would prefer to watch this movie at home, it is now available via Video on Demand services. It is a great espionage drama based on a fascinating true story that I must hightly recommend.

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