Film Review – The Courier (2020)

In November 1960, Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) was approached by MI6 in order to go to Moscow under the guise of his work as a salesman and exchange important information. His contact will be Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), a Russian informant who has also agreed to work for the British Secret Service, but also has a family of which to think about.

Photo Nick Wall

Suddenly being swept away into the world of espionage, Wynne starts to feel the excitement, However, he also feels the pressure of having such an important task on his hands and starts to get to Wynne and it starts to affect his relationship with his wife, Sheila (Jessie Buckley). However, thanks to Greville Wynne and his vital work, the Cuban missile crisis was narrowly averted, although by today’s standards his story goes all but untold.

The Courier is the true story of British Secret Service agent Greville Wynne who was recruited in order to ensure that nuclear war was not just around the corner. Unlike spies at the time of the film’s setting such as James Bond and Harry Palmer, The Courier takes a different and more grounded approach which is as reassuring as it is faithful to the way the events took place.

Here there is no place for dramatic licence as under Dominic Cooke’s direction as The Courier tells its story like it was and stays true to real life. This may be disappointing to some, but the way in which the story is told may have been too showy if the film had been all about the performances and little about the plot.

Benedict Cumberbatch also serves as executive producer on The Courier, which may have also tempted the actor to give his best, award baiting performance, but thankfully he reins it in and lets the story unfold. However, it could be said that in the final act is where Cumberbatch gives it his all, but it would only to reflect what Wynne would have endured for real.

A lavish and yet understated production which befits its cast, The Courier makes the audience feel like they were transported back to Soviet Russian and middle England during the early 60s. Although this is only to immerse its audience more. Perhaps a story that most audiences wouldn’t know today, The Courier is about an unsung hero of British political history who saved the world without a gun or a gadget in sight.


Thriller | UK, 2020 | 12 | 29th October 2021 (Digital HD), 1st November 2021 (Blu-Ray, DVD) | Lionsgate Films | Dir.Dominic Cooke | Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Rachael Bronsahan, Jessie Buckley