The Courier [8/10]

From its opening scene, the brown-tinged Cold War thriller “The Courier” looks, sounds and feels like a movie out of my teens. Director Dominic Cooke does a masterful job of planting the viewer right there in 1960, the era of the Cuban Missile Crisis. International salesman Greville Wynne is approached by MI6, partnered with the CIA (Rachel Brosnahan gives a perky characterization), and asked to expand his Eastern European bailiwick to Moscow, to act as courier for volunteer Soviet spy Oleg Penkovsky. Wynne, slick and adept at selling through boozing, is played by Benedict Cumberbatch in a superb performance. Merab Ninidze is almost as wonderful as Penkovsky. Cooke’s unwinding of the straightforward script, which escalates towards Armageddon, is surehanded, and the tension is terrific. The aftermath allows Cumberbatch to portray pathos with gripping dramatics. The Courier is based on a true story, normally a handle that signifies filmic yawning, but this movie is traditional and exciting and nothing more needs be said.

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