Watching Dominic Cookes The Courier, I couldn’t help but wonder how many other unsung heroes there were like his main character, Greville Wynne.
An English salesman who doubled as a spy for England in the early 1960s, he was a man who put himself in great danger in order to get vital information out of the Soviet Union in an attempt to reveal the country’s activity in Cuba.
As Cooke recounts, this is a fascinating character study that follows Wynne from being an innocent patsy to being a brave, selfless agent who discovers he has a bigger purpose and accepts it.
And while this is fascinating, the driving force behind the film is the friendship that forms between two unlikely allies, men who come to recognize that they are soul mates despite their obvious differences.
Eager to get ahead, Wynne is the kind of salesperson who is constantly on the move to close their next sale and seizes any opportunity that comes their way.
As such, when two undercover British agents suggest he pursue business opportunities in the Soviet Union, he jumps at the chance.
Behind the Iron Curtain, he makes contact with Oleg Penkovsky (Mereb Ninidze), a military intelligence officer who presents himself as an official who can help him foster lucrative business deals that will benefit both countries.
However, he has an ulterior motive.
Confident Russian leader Nikita Krushchev will plunge the world into nuclear war, Penkovsky is determined to share vital information with the West to prevent this and convinces Wynne to be his mule.
It’s a role Wynne is initially reluctant to take on, but as his friendship with Penkovsky grows he comes to realize not only his importance on the international stage, but also on a personal level. .
The similarities between him and his Russian counterpart are striking when it comes to their love of family and homeland, as well as sharing a common sense of decency far too rare in this culture of paranoia.
Equally surprising is the sense of purpose he finds and embraces, as the excitement these activities bring gives his rather mundane life a much needed boost.
As Wynne, Benedict Cumberbatch has the opportunity to flaunt his range, from a well-meaning family man eager to get ahead, to a selfless patriot who comes to realize he has problems. reserves of strength and courage that he did not know he possessed.
The gradual transformation of Cumberbatchs allows the viewer to see the ever-expanding world of espionage and subterfuge through their eyes, with this approach working to great effect.
Ninidze is equally compelling, as he changes too convincingly over the course of the film, a sense of fear and paranoia ultimately wearing out this noble man until only a frail vessel of good intentions remains.
Meanwhile, the great 21st century chameleon, Jessie Buckley, shines as Wynnes’ wife, doing this woman justice by sincerely addressing not only her suspicions about her husband’s activities, but ultimately her great strength and pride. .
Ultimately, The Courier is a testament to honor, loyalty and friendship in the face of government oppression and fear.
And although the story is set six decades ago, the film remains an indictment of any modern country that actively suppresses the will of its citizens, blindly ignoring their well-being in pursuit of a flawed and dangerous agenda. .
Powerful and poignant to the end, Wynnes’ story is one that resonates through the years, his life a shining example of one man’s efforts to ward off tyranny.
For DVR alerts, movie recommendations, and movie news, follow Koplinski on Twitter @ckoplinski. His email is [email protected]
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