The Courier (9/10)
by Tony Medley
I remember Oleg Penkovsky (a scintillating Merab Nididze) very well. He was a highly placed Soviet official in Moscow who fed secrets to the West before and during the Cuban Missile crisis. That’s about all I knew until this film.
The courier was Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch in an Oscar®-deserving performance), a British businessman who was recruited to receive and deliver the secrets to British and American intelligence.
Directed by Dominic Cooke from a script by Tom O’Connor, this is a story that has begged to be told for more than a half century. I don’t know how accurate the details are, but the basic facts are true. Even though you know the outcome (well, I did), it’s tense and dramatic the whole way through, a terrific film.
They did leave out one fact about Wynne, however, that is curious. He was seriously dyslexic; some say almost to the point of illiteracy. Maybe that would have been difficult to work in, but it certainly adds to the man’s character.
One thing that struck me about this film was Penkovsky’s character; cool and determined. Nobody knows, really, what kind of person Penkovsky was. Nididze says that he looks nothing like Penkovsky and based his characterization on about two minutes of watching him on film. So who’s to say?
The movie ends without telling the viewer what happened to Wynne. I think that was a mistake; the viewers should be entitled to know the whole story which they could have told in a few sentences of graphics. If you are going to tell this story which, although familiar to me, is probably unknown by most of today’s viewers, you should tell the whole story.
The relationship between Penkovsky and Wynne is probably pretty accurate, but the relationship between Wynne and his wife, Sheila (Jessie Buckley, who was such a hit in 2019’s Wild Rose) was totally made up because little to nothing is known about her.
I never comment on other critics’ opinions because, for one thing I don’t read other critics, and for another thing that’s what we do, give opinions, so if some disagree, that’s what makes horse racing. But one guy for an Industry paper gave this a low rating and had a teaser about this film that read, “Despite ongoing conflicts with Russia today, the movie doesn’t feel terribly relevant to our time.“ So he would probably say that Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Chinatown, The Godfather, WWII movies, or any movie ever made that wasn’t woke should be shunned? It’s because of ignorant, shallow dorks like that that I became a critic and intend to remain one.
Tony Medley is an attorney, columnist, and MPAA-accredited film critic whose reviews and articles may be read in several newspapers and at rottentomatoes.com, CWEB.com, Movie Review Query Engine (mrqe.com), and at www.tonymedley.com. His most recent book is “Learn to Play Bridge Like a Boss,” the most complete “all in one” book for beginners and also for advanced players. He is also the author of three books, UCLA Basketball:The Real Story, Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed, the first book ever written on the interview for the interviewee and still in print after more than thirty years, having sold over a half million copies, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bridge, which has sold over 100,000 copies. He is an American Contract Bridge League Silver Life Master and an ACBL accredited director.