The last film from director Dominic Cooke was At Chesil Beach, a film so boring that I can’t get through everything. Writer Tom O’Conner’s? The Hitman’s bodyguard, a film that I immediately found unforgettable. What a difference a few years make. These two men came together to create something The courier, a great suspense spy thriller powered by a dazzling performance by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Mr Cumberbatch plays Greville Wynne, a British businessman enlisted by MI-6 to transport top-secret documents from senior Soviet informant Oleg Penkovsky. Cumberbatch is generally considered a top actor, but if you look at his résumé since his Oscar-nominated turnaround in 2014 as Alan Turing The [overrated] Imitation gameFor the most part, he has played it safe and has appeared in a number of Marvel films and other popcorn entertainment programs. With The courierCumberbatch is given a chew role, and he chews, gnawing his character’s constructs to the bone. On the surface, the role of Wynne doesn’t seem like the meat dealer of roles – he’s being recruited as a spy for his leniency – but Cumberbatch takes the opportunity. It only gets better as the story unfolds.
In all fairness, it’s the kind of portrayal that deserves attention, though he probably won’t get it due to the movie’s early release date.
The rest of The courier is a solid, old-fashioned, real life spy film that spans drama and thriller in a grounded way. You won’t find any action sequences or double and triple betrayals. At its core, the film is about two men (the other is Penkovsky, incredibly well played by Merab Ninidze), who are both committed to the survival of humanity and, despite very different backgrounds, forge a real bond. The espionage elements are working on the periphery of this link, and that’s perfectly fine.
The courier is a well-staged, grounded spy film that deserves attention, aside from Cumberbatch’s performance. But the actor takes the material to another level and makes this one of the first must-see films.
Rating by Erik Samdahl, unless otherwise stated.