The years prior to the Cuban Missile crisis that happened in 1962, were some of the highest tension and most dangerous times between the United States and the Soviet Union. The world was as close to extinction because of an impending nuclear war than it ever has been before or since, culimating in a Mexican Standoff between President Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev. During this time there were spy’s who were desperately trying to prevent nuclear war by stealing information from Russia. One of the most important spies was Greville Wynne who worked for MI6 and Oleg Penkovsky who was a Russian citizen who gave information to Wynne for years. These two collaborated for several years eventually becoming close friends – and this turned out to be one of the best aspects of this true story.
One can only but admire the incredible courage of Wynne and Penkovsky in the new movie “The Courier” who not only risked their own lives but the lives of their wives and children during years of espionage. The upside of spying on Russia during the most high stress periods between Russian and the United States was the possibility of saving the world. The downside was lifelong imprisonment or death. Brave people like Wynne and Penkovsky sometimes stuck out their necks for too long and paid a huge price.
Wynne was played extremely well by Benedict Cumberbatch, in another great role that rivals his performance The Imitation Game, released in early 2015. Most impressive with this role is his extreme weight loss that was required to show his years in a Russian prison. His weight loss in this film rivals Tom Hanks in “Castaway”, or the all time champion Christian Bale who lost a life threatening amount of weight 3 times in “The Fighter”, 2010, “The Machinist”, 2004, and “Rescue Dawn”, 2006. For those who think they could be a great actor, how many would ever even consider losing a large percentage of their body weight over months, just to make a movie. This practice is very dangerous to anyone’s health and considering the huge advancements in film technology, hopefully one day this practice will eventually fade away – along with smoking in movies. Unfortunately this movie also has way too much smoking, but considering the years involved, 1960-1962 smoking makes more sense this time around. The acting in this film is outstanding, including Rachel Brosnahan who plays one of the high level MI6 operatives.
I mostly agree with the high 84% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and I do recommend The Courier.