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The Courier

Even though officially ending over thirty years ago, the Cold War still remains. The frosty relationship between Western nations and Russia defined decades of political brinkmanship. It became fodder for countless spy novels and films, most notably the early James Bond movies. Based on true events, ‘The Courier’ explores another aspect. Perhaps due to its real-life tale, ‘The Courier’ constantly engages - which any good spy story should always aim for.

A British businessman working in London in 1962, Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) is noted for his diplomacy and analytical skills. He is recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service and tasked with gathering crucial intelligence about the Soviet nuclear programme that could end the then current Cuban Missile Crisis. Wynne is helped by Russian agent Oleg (Merab Nindze) who passes on information despite great personal cost. As the crisis escalates, they find themselves in further danger as opposing sides battle for supremacy.

‘The Courier’ heavily relies on old-school film-making which allows the story to fully develop. It’s the type of slow-burning drama Netflix now excels except ‘The Courier’ embraces its cinematic expanses. The strong performances aid in capturing the deadly tension and emotional cost on their real-life counterparts. This grounds the story in authenticity without using guns and explosions to wring out dramatic moments. It’s more of a character based thriller than typical spy ‘shoot-em’up’.

Dominic Cooke directs ‘The Courier’ with stylish elegance. The visuals and photography perfectly captures Britain in the early ‘60’s, somewhat of a safe haven between the dominating forces of America and Russia. Above these elements is the relationship between the main leads, men who believe in a peaceful cause and eventually each other. Their growing friendship gives them strength the other never knew they had, helping to cement mission objectives. Their solid bond makes viewing ‘The Courier’ a captivating experience with the suspense of potentially getting caught always present.

It’s interesting, as someone born after the events depicted in ‘The Courier’, seeing how close the world came to cataclysmic conflict. That it didn’t happen is a testament to the bravery of those portrayed. ‘The Courier’, like many other fact-based movies, is a good way to honour their memory and sacrifice even if the cloak and dagger world of espionage endures in a new century.

Rating out of 10: 8

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