Based on the incredible true story of a businessman turned spy.
The Courier is a 2021 biographical thriller-drama film directed by Dominic Cooke, written by Tom O'Connor, produced by 42, FilmNation Entertainment, and SunnyMarch, and distributed by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. The film is based on Greville Wynne's real-life transformation from businessman to spy. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Merab Ninidze. It was not nominated for any Academy Awards.
"I can't believe I'm actually having lunch with spies." -Greville Wynne
When the Cold War escalates to dangerous territory, the CIA and MI6 need to figure out the Russians' next moves. To do this, they recruit ordinary businessman Greville Wynne as to find out as much information as he can about the Russians' plans for the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The first half of this film is really good. The setup and beginning of the spy stuff is fantastic. When Greville first goes to Moscow, you feel the tension and unease of him being in Russia. The director, whose name is Dominic Cooke, captures the suspicion of the Russians so well. The lighting in Russia is darker, showing that the tone shifts a bit when they arrive there. I love the way that Cooke directs this film. He is an early front-runner for a 2022 Oscar nomination. He fully immerses you in every scene in the movie.
The film also does a great job of building out the story, leading to a heart-wrenching climax that I will talk about a little bit later. There are multiple layers to every story. Each character has their own motivations and their own reasons for believing something that is or isn't true. The tension keeps being upped by one notch every scene. This isn't a spoiler, but there is a scene involving the dictionary that displays how well the build-up works.
And there is a good amount of emotion near the end. Benedict Cumberbatch is really at his strongest when he is acting emotional, and it can be very uncomfortable to watch. I can't go into much more without spoiling, so that's why this section is so short.
It's also really fun to watch the spy work. It's almost like a real life Mission: Impossible. There are gadgets and missions and secret meetings. This film serves as an inside eye to the CIA and to MI6. I really liked that part of the movie.
I'm frustrated by this movie, because the good stuff is so well-executed and the bad stuff could be patched up if they just take a second look at it. The problems stick out like a sore thumb.
First of all, they come to the conclusion that Greville Wynne is their only hope very quickly. About five minutes into the movie, after almost no setup at all, the woman who plays Ms. Maisel decides that they need an ordinary businessman to do spy stuff. It doesn't make a lot of sense.
Unfortunately, I don't think that this was the best story to adapt into a movie. It starts up and it seems really cool, but then the climax happens and our characters have to get out of trouble, but they never really resolve the main plot line. There is a line that mentions their success in stopping the Cuban Missile Crisis, but that's not really resolving the plot.
Along those same lines, as a fourteen-year-old, I was pretty confused throughout. There's a lot of complex words and subtly that I didn't always catch. Even my parents sometimes seemed like they had trouble following exactly what was going on. One of the worst things that spy movies and heist movies can do is be confusing. I don't like Ocean's Eleven because it's too confusing. I don't really like the first Mission: Impossible movie because it's too confusing. And I like The Courier, but it's too confusing.
Lastly, there are some things teased in the film that do not have payoff. This is where the script gets very messy. They tease one conflict that seems like it will happen. Then the credits roll and there is no continuation of that plot line. Also, sometimes, random scenes will be thrown into mix. We are in the middle of this slow, intense chase, then we cut to our characters that are being chased watching a ballet. Like I said, the problems are so obvious and could be fixed so easily if only a minimal amount of effort was put in.
Before you check out the final score for this movie, I have a ton of other reviews for biographical movies: Catch Me If You Can, Moneyball, Remember the Titans, and more. If you want daily updates, please subscribe to the site. Also follow me on Instagram and TikTok @sweetnsourreviews.
The Courier is a frustrating movie that has a ton of easily fixable problems, but it is a decent enough movie at the end of the day.
I'll go Savory on this one. Age range is 9+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good)
Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 7/10
Characters: 7.5/10 Quality: 7.5/10
Directed by Dominic Cooke
Rated PG-13 for minor violence, language, intense scenes, thematic elements
Released on March 19, 2021
1 hour and 52 minutes
Benedict Cumberbatch as Greville Wynne
Merab Ninidze as Oleg Penkovsky
Rachel Brosnahan as Emily Donovan
Angus Wright as Dickie Franks
Jessie Buckley as Sheila Wynne