The Courier (2020) Poster


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Cumberbatch Continues To Move The Acting Bar Higher
Instant_Palmer28 April 2021
Benedict Cumberbatch's best performance to date, which makes it one of the greatest acting performances period. His startling physical transformations, spot-on dialogue delivery, and appropriately subtle and highly-effective character manifestations (he's a spy not a Hollywood super-hero for those hung up on the film not emulating Bond or Bourne "big moment" scenes), are all testimony to his commitment to the acting craft. He once again proves why he is (simply-put) one of this era's greatest actors.

This role should garner award nominations across the spectrum of such ceremonies for Benedict.

The Courier is well above average as espionage films go - subtle pacing actually magnifies tension in the story - the most elemental fuel for any thriller.

No spy film is better at emotionally connecting the viewer with the lead character - painting an accurate portrayal of both a spy's methodology, and the inevitable inner conflicts and angst involved in the job, and in one's personal life. This unique trait elevates the film.

The Director maintains a refreshingly low-key atmosphere in scenes, befitting the "trade-craft" of espionage that thrives on innocuous and concealing behavior (rather than the overly dramatic big moments too often leaned upon in blockbuster spy films). None of that nonsense would actually occur as spies would bring too much attention to themselves - a sure way of having a short career and brief lifespan.

This is a spotlight film role carried by Benedict, but a film of this immense achievement does not occur without similarly great performances by the supporting cast.

Merab Ninidze hits one over the Berlin Wall and deserves recognition for his remarkable supporting role performance.

Rachel Brosnahan was spot-on as well, and is clearly on a roll after her deserved critical praise for 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'.

Tom O'Conner's screenplay is brilliant as is Dominic Cooke's directing, and Gareth Scales' editing which somehow brings this fascinating true story to film in under two hours.

The Courier has me once again ('Spotlight' being the first in 2015) breaking my long standing rule of not putting a film on the Top 100 All Time Greatest list within a year of its release. I often view better films multiple times over the long haul. Some hold up; some gain respect; and some regress. I'm anticipating The Courier will not lose ground over time, and may gain, but we shall see.

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They do make like they used to.
mick-meyers16 August 2021
Excellent film,first class acting.the while film is remedy to the big blockbusters.the transformation of Benedict Cumberbatch,from clueless pawn in a political high stakes game to a more caring person as well as the physical change is staggering.abetted by a solid supporting cast.a must see film this year.
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Need more like this
dwill-8344028 March 2021
We need more movies like this. If you enjoy movies that teach history with good acting and are clean without all the typical Hollywood garbage then this movie is for you. Terrific movie!
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On the verge of World War III
boyar-jedi15 March 2021
Even if you know the history superficially, you certainly couldn't help but hear about the "Cuban Missile Crisis" that took place nearby Cuba in the early 60s of the 20th century. Then the USSR and the USA almost started a new global war, however everything worked out eventually. Now we will find who we've to be thankful for resolving the conflict and making the sky above our heads calm again.

The protagonist of the film is British businessman Greville Wynne who is involved in financial affairs around the world. Thanks to his charisma and a silver tongue Wynn finds friends everywhere and now he is recruited by the British special services so that upon arrival in Moscow he would get in touch with a local defector and transmit important information to London.

I've watched lots of spy films, but this one's gone deep into my soul. To start with, I really appreciated the stylization, as if the film was actually filmed in the 60s. Besides, I can't fail to mention the actors, Benedict Cumberbatch is beyond comparison, he actually doesn't know how to play badly. I also loved Merab Ninidze as a Russian agent who decided to help England and the United States in the battle against the USSR.

So the film is really remarkable, it is a great pleasure to watch it. The tension won't let you go until the very end, and I can highly recommend it to you.
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Impossible to stop watching
andreev-8331816 March 2021
As for me, the most important reference point for watching films is the cast. If I see interesting actors who select roles wisely and don't star in anything, it means that the novelties with their participation are mandatory to see. And since Benedict Cumberbatch starred in "Spy Games", such a movie can't be missed.

The storyline takes us back to the early 60s. The businessman Greville Wynne becomes a spy in the service of Her Majesty. While in Moscow, Neville gets instructions from a Russian colonel who has decided to go over to England's side, and who would have thought that very soon the stakes in the espionage game would become extremely high. The lives of millions of innocent people around the planet will depend on them.

Benedict Cumberbatch's performance is as good as ever. Once again I am convinced that he is one of the best actors of his generation and I can't remember a single bad film with his participation. And as for "The Courier", Cumberbatch drastically differs from Sherlock or Doctor Strange. He doesn't play a superhuman, capable of anything, but at the same time he bestows us strong emotions and we really worry about his hero.

In general, the film's worth seeing to understand its full dramatic and historical depth. The shot is interesting, there are no unnecessary moments, everything is in essence. These are the kind of films you need to watch and discuss!
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kosmasp6 July 2021
Real life stories can be tricky. In the horror genre they can fail miserably ... in the War scenarios or spy and real people stories, it does look differently though. Like with this one. And while I reckon one could argue that side characters feel shallow or one dimensional (the wives for example), I'd argue there is not enough time to get and have everyone have their moment.

Still the British wife we have here, does have some zingers and you can really feel her pain and understand her anxiety over all that is happening. Even if she has the wrong idea of what is going on. Having said all that, the actors are fantastic and the tension is really holding up throughout ... you may know where this is going (and what happened with Cuba and the missilie crisis), but it won't take anything away from what we see on screen.
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Best Film of 2020!
dfuuetiqc31 December 2020
Captured the true 1960s Cold War feel and gripping from the beginning. Benedict Cumberbatch's performance was absolutely outstanding. Particularly impressive sound mixing that enhanced the best bits of the film. A must watch of 2020!
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Good watch but..
chait-kulkarni22 April 2021
Why did they not show Oleg Penkovsky's actual image too at the end. It could have been a better film had they given both the characters equal importance too..

Penkovsky's story seemed more interesting..
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nice old fashion espionage thriller
SnoopyStyle19 August 2021
It's 1960 and the Cold War is heating up. High level Soviet official Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) is concerned. He risks everything to contact the West. CIA agent (Rachel Brosnahan) suggests using an amateur as a conduit. They recruit everyday salesman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) who has done some business behind the Iron Curtain.

This is an old fashion espionage thriller. It's heightened by its true story nature and the two lead performers. Greville's regular everyday-man character is very compelling. The two men's friendship is very interesting. It may not be something new but it is very well-done. The last part is a little flat but that has to do with its true story nature. This is a throwback in the best sense.
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A well made Cold War movie
hajerahmuneer19 March 2021
A must watch if you're a history fan. Acting, execution, dialogues and plot buildup everything is top notch.
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Great story
Horror_Flick_Fanatic18 April 2021
I am really impressed with Cumberbatch's performance and especially his weight loss for the Russian gulag imprisonment scenes. Merab Ninidze performance was also phenomenal. I feel horrible that the real life Oleg Penkovsky paid with his life for helping to bring peace to the world and the real Greville Wynne for helping to facilitate that peace. This is a phenomenal story and I am glad it has been told so that we could all appreciate what these two men did to save mankind.
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Excellent Character Piece
sme320 March 2021
THE COURIER has many of the elements of more realistic spy thrillers, but by far its greatest strength is its characters. At its core, it explores the relationship between Greville Wynne, Oleg Penkovsky and their families. The performances are uniformly excellent. For a film otherwise focused on its characters, the picture is never completely clear what Wynne's civilian job was. Anyone expecting a James Bond action film may be seriously disappointed with this real-life tale.
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Emotional performance. Well told story
lundskygurl28 March 2021
I hope Cumberbatch gets an Oscar for this one; but everyone nailed their role. What an enjoyable film that captured that time and place well. The last 30 min I was wide eyed with my hand over my mouth.
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chickenspicyrice19 August 2021
An amazing performance by Benedict Cumberbatch. He embodied the character and portrayed the development of the characters personality perfectly. The plot was smooth, no confusion and well paced. Everything tied together well.

Left me genuinely on the edge of my seat. Couldn't take my focus away for even a second, it almost felt immersive.

My perspective on how realistic it is compared to the true story it was based off is irrelevant as I was clueless before seeing The Courier. However, it's definitely good at educating people on this part of history.
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Dark Movie Showing One Mans Personal Sacrifice For His Country
martimusross18 August 2021
The Courier

If you like your spy to come from the pen of Ian Fleming rather that John Le Carre then this movie may not be for you. Our ghost hero Greville Wynne, played by Dominic Cumberbatch, he was the driest of sticks, little more than a door to door vacuum clean salesman, who, recruited by M16, smuggled unknown packages backwards and forwards in the months leading up to and after the 1962 Cuban missal crisis.

It was interesting to note how they carefully padded Benedict's face so that later on in the movie he could appear to have lost weight for some dramatic scenes.

The comprehensive relationship between Alex and Greville, whilst supposed, was brilliantly realised, and became the dramatic impetus for the movie. It really was very good!

This really was Benedict Cumberbatch at the height of his powers, a dominating screen presence, micro detail, nuance, depth of characterisation, emotional range it was really quite brilliant and why this guy is a national treasure.

The final scenes between Greville and Sheila, were incredibly moving and show the dark underbelly of espionage and the personal sacrifice made to protect us all.

Whilst a niche movie, it had just about everything, masterful direction, fabulous styling, great score, clever cinematography and a great troupe of actors.

I giving this a 10 out of 10 for a mesmerising performance from Benedict alone, all the rest is a bonus!
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governments will use anyone as a patsy
lee_eisenberg22 June 2021
Most people have heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Probably less known is the story of Greville Wynne; I had never heard of him until I saw "The Courier". Basically, MI6 used this businessman as a patsy in their espionage operations. As to why a businessman would be willing to do business with the Soviet Union, maybe he thought there was money in it, or maybe he thought he was helping his country. But whatever the case, he became a pawn in the Cold War.

Benedict Cumberbatch does an excellent job in the role, as do Merab Ninidze and Rachel Brosnahan in their roles. Definitely check it out.
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What a Wild Ride Exploring the Cuban Missile Crisis and those that Intervened
rannynm1 March 2021
The Courier is a historical fiction movie that perfectly captures the events of the threat of a nuclear weapon attack that took place back in the 1960s. While this is based on a real event that happened, the people that worked on this movie used their creative license to their advantage resulting in a riveting film.

The Courier is about a British businessman named Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is enlisted to go undercover to get intelligence on a nuclear missile attack that's being plotted against Cuba. Under the leadership of Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan) and Dickie Franks (Angus Wright), he forms an alliance with Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze). Together, they try to stop the planned nuclear weapon attacks.

The Courier is a very unique film that really dives deep into the topic it's discussing, the threat of nuclear attacks on Cuba. It is based on an actual historical event, known as the "Cuban Missile Crisis." When I looked up the historical images of Greville Wynne and Oleg Penkovsky I was surprised that Benedict Cumberbatch and Merab Ninidze look so similar to them. Major props to Alena Garetovskaya, Lucy Amos and the rest of the casting team. Although there are points in the film where I couldn't make out what they were saying, the emotional impact of what is going on is definitely clear. For instance, the scenes towards the end where Greville is in jail and has a conversation with his wife Sheila (Jessie Buckley). Benedict and Jessie both convey their disappointment and tiny ray of hope that both of their characters have. The setting of this film, which is dark and grey, makes the story seem very authentic, because the topic is very dark and dangerous with almost an ominous feel. My favorite part of this film is when Oleg and Greville go see the ballet, Swan Lake. Greville is obviously very moved by the performance to the point that he is crying. The Courier is supposed to be a serious and momentous film and for the most part, it is, but that scene made me laugh.

The message of The Courier is to never stop fighting for what you believe in, no matter who tries to tell you otherwise. Oleg knew that he would be arrested and executed if he got caught learning and transporting information about the attack. Greville knew that leaving Oleg to take all the fault and retribution wasn't the right thing to do. Everyone told them that these weren't good ideas and that they would be in too deep. But did that stop them? No. They decided to do what they knew was right, and take the risk. There are some mature and gory scenes along with suggestive language in this film, which explains its PG-13 rating.

I rate The Courier 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. If you love learning about history, and love a good thriller, you will love this film. Reviewed by Maica N., KIDS FIRST!
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Doctor Strangelove.
southdavid16 August 2021
Long delayed because of Covid, "The Courier" finally received its cinematic release in the UK in August of 2021. A theme of my reviews of biopics is that whilst the subject is often interesting, the actual story of their life is not worthy of being a film, that is most certainly not the case here.

With the cold war warming up, Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), a high-ranking Soviet official, fears the oblivion of Nuclear War. He attempts to make contact with the West. Fearing that any traditional intelligence officer is likely to be under immediate suspicion, a combined CIA/MI6 operation identifies legitimate businessman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) as a potential go between. As the relationship between Penkovsky and Wynne deepens, the pair risk more and more for a goal that might literally save the world.

To say that I only went to see "The Courier" because it worked out timewise with another film I'd seen that day, I really rather enjoyed it. The Sixties period work is well done as is the locational scouting, finding places in Prague and London that look similar to as they did at the time. I wasn't aware of the story of the film going in, so when it came, I was quite unsure whether Wynne and Penkovsky would be able to get out of the country or not. It made for a genuinely tense experience.

There is a strong supporting cast. Rachel Brosnahan, Angus Wright, Anton Lesser and Jessie Buckley are all good, but the films two central performances are particularly excellent. Merab Ninidze actively displays all of the conflict he is going through, understanding entirely what he risks by betraying his country, but understanding the risk of unstable men leading the USSR to the brink of annihilation. Cumberbatch though is something else. Yes, he gets to do the showy actor thing of losing a great deal of weight, but it was moments earlier in the film that got me, his face when he decides to go to Moscow one last time for example, just brilliant.

Now I know the story, it will not require watching the film again any time soon, but for the performances if nothing else (and it is a solid story) it's well worth your time.
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A reasonably well made, paint-by-numbers, cold-war espionage flick...
tccandler17 April 2021
A reasonably well made, paint-by-numbers, cold-war espionage flick with a solid cast. There are no real complaints about this true story, but it all feels a tad stale and has the look of something we have all seen before. It is professionally presented, but slightly forgettable.
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panta-425 May 2021
Very unevenly told spy story from the time of the 1960's Cuban crisis... which wasn't always correct! The director Dominic Cooke directed this biased film following the screenplay of Tom O'Connor, ticking every possible cliche box in the generic spy movie playbook. Merab Ninidze as Oleg Penkovsky and Benedict Cumberbatch as Greville WynneIt were the only one above the average, the rest was just interesting to a degree but it will be quickly forgotten because of the blandness!

My wife fell asleep after the 20 minutes, so she had a good rest for another 92 minutes... while I kept watching.

Just for a record: the real Grenville Wynne didn't die died peacefully in 1990, as stated in the film - he died of throat cancer and suffered depression and alcoholism after being released from the Soviet Union... and I am still questioning the reasons we didn't see Oleg Penkovsky's actual image, too, at the end. I guess these days all Russians are the bad guys, so no need for it...
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A movie that tells you what it really means to be a true gentleman
muzamilahmad24 March 2021
Idk how this movie created such a likeability for these characters, but it did. I respect the acting and the real people that represent the film.
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A peerless Cumberbatch and a miscast Buckley.
bob-the-movie-man16 August 2021
It's not to be confused with the Olga Kurylenko / Gary Oldman 2019 movie of the same title. But with a fresh Berlin current-day Russian spy scandal in the news this week, seeing the cold war spy drama "The Courier" is a timely thing to do.

  • Benedict Cumberbatch is outstandingly good in this. He could have been born to play the slightly bemused English gentlemen of the time. All golf, tweed suits and gentlemen's clubs. No spoilers, but there is a physical transformation as well that's impressive to observe. The film would have been decidedly so-so I think without that core central performance.

  • The film is based on a true story. As someone who was born in 1961, it's a good reminder to count our blessings that you, me and everyone else are still around to live our lives at all. The world was on the brink of a precipice and learning the story of Wynne's part in this was insightful history.

  • There's a nice catchy Russian-themed score by Abel Korzeniowski.

  • I'm a big fan of Jessie Buckley. Really, I am. And to be fair to her, her performance is really good. I particularly liked a scene where she dismissed on the doorstep a local busybody. But I just didn't see her as Wynne's pearl-neckless-wearing wife in this part. Perhaps the problem is that although there's a 13 year age gap between the leads, I always imagine Buckley as being much younger that her 31 years. For whatever reason, the casting didn't work for me.

Summary Thoughts on "The Courier": As a true-life spy story, the movie is interesting and Cumberbatch's performance is brilliant. But I can't say that I was 100% grabbed by it. While having a few moments of high drama and tension - particularly one on a plane - I never felt that to be maintained for enough of the movie. Director Dominic Cooke has a limited filmography (with the Saoirse Ronan movie "On Chesil Beach" being his only other feature) and writer Tom O'Connor is the guy behind the more flippant "Hitman's Bodyguard" films. Perhaps a more experienced writer/director team would have elevated this to a higher level.

So it's eminently watchable but not memorable. And so a marginal hit in my book.

(For the full graphical review, please check out onemannsmovies on the web, Facebook and Tiktok. Thanks.)
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...true story, but...
maca01119018 April 2021
...somewhere after 1 hour and 29 minutes, someone, who knows only "bad Russians" and "west is the best", hear Russian investigator mumbling something about American missiles in Turkey..., those missiles were there long before nuclear heads on Cuba..., to correct true story, first was Turkey, then was Cuba... ...I would rather say "Turkey missile crisis" than "Cuban missile crisis"... ...anyway, both presidents agreed on not mentioning American obligation to remove those missiles from Turkey in favor of Russia doing the same...
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parth-9594519 March 2021
Great watch. Meant for theatre. Do not miss it. Recreation at its best
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Early 1960s, USA and Russia drama in the cold war.
TxMike28 August 2021
It was the early 1960s, the USA and Russia were in a race to amass nuclear weapons. It was to the point that if both of them did a maximum launch at each other it would destroy most of the world as we knew it. In truth they wanted to bury each other.

In October 1962 I was a senior in high school and that is the month of an event that came to be called the Cuban missile crisis. Russia decided to move nuclear missiles to Cuba, just a few miles off the coast of the USA. There was nothing favorable about that move. The still new US President JFK had a tough decision, how to confront Russia and get them to reverse their plans. As history witnessed Russia backed off.

That is a central theme in the story here, based on real people and real events. An English businessman was convinced to expand his business dealings to Russia, there he would befriend a Russian who would pass him photographic microfilm. He became the courier. A main topic were the plans to place the missiles in Cuba. This spy work was what tipped England and the USA off to the Russian plans and allowed them to monitor the situation which eventually resulted in the confrontation to get Russian ships to turn back.

This is a very good movie, well-acted and well-told. My wife and watched it streaming on Amazon.
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