Director(s): Dominic Cooke

Writer(s): Tom O’Connor

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan, Jessie Buckley, Angus Wright

Release Date: January 24, 2020


THE COURIER (also known as Ironbark) tells the true story of Greville Wynne(Benedict Cumberbatch), a British businessman who was recruited by MI6 to become a Cold War spy. Sent to Russia to uncover some alarming truths about the Soviet nuclear program, Wynne begins working alongside their source, Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), as they try to find enough intelligence to put a halt to the Cuban Missile Crisis.


An unstable man with his finger on the nuclear button — the world has come so far from the 1960s in which The Courier is based that we have stopped worrying about this, even when such men seem to be in multiples now. The film is about the time when a heated nuclear race kept the East and West on perpetual edge. One such chapter in those tense times was the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and the story the film tells is a crucial footnote in it, made up of two heroes — and their loving, silent wives — whose own tales remain largely unknown.


An impressive second feature from director Dominic Cooke (On Chesil Beach), this Cold War spy thriller thrives in the intensity that so often derives from undercover-based narratives. The Courier also boasts a brilliant central performance by Cumberbatch, in one of his finest roles for some time. Jessie Buckley, who plays Wynne’s wife, Sheila, also continues to mark her status as one of the most talented young performers around.

There is a pensive quality to this film, and perhaps it takes a little while to generate excitement and heat. But while it lacks the same dramatic punch, there is still enough unwavering suspense to keep the audience gripped throughout. The patient viewer will also be rewarded with a fantastic final act.