THE COURIER - A Quick-Fire Look at the Greville Wynne-Oleg Penkovsky Cold War spy thriller
Hi this is tom. Pizarro from spy movie navigated dot com. I just did something that i hadn't done. Since last september. I went to a movie theater here in the us. What brought me to the theater for the first time since tanna l. was the spy movie that just released here in the us. The courier so join me as i take a quick fire. Look at the two thousand and twenty one. Movie the currier. I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum here. As i'm aware that this movie is a staggered release schedule and isn't being released in the uk until mid-may france. Turkey won't get it until sometime in mid june. I assume little stream sometime after that one of the things that we had spy moving navigator do when examining movies is to look for influences for movie either in real life events around one movie might influence another for instance the vault scene in the nineteen ninety six movie mission. Impossible was heavily influenced by both seen in the nineteen sixty four movie to copy as well as the second episode called the system of the nineteen eighty eight reboot the mission. Impossible tv show since the courier is based on real world events. It's right in our wheelhouse so let's go ahead and dive in the courier debuted at the twenty twenty sundance festival just before the pandemic it at the time it went by the name iron burke which was the codename for the main russian character of the story oleg penkovsky. He's played wonderfully by mihrab in indy benedict. Cumberbatch gives yet another stellar performance in there. All of the british main character gravel win many spy fans already know the basics of the true story of gravel. Win and oleg penkovsky some comfortable relating some of the facts behind this movie without hitting on. Spoilers i will refrain from exposing the movies twists in maine tension points so you can keep listening and still enjoy the movie when you see it so the basic stories. At a traveling salesman with no military no government no intelligence background at all was enticed by m. i six to act as a go-between for am i. Six and a russian spy named oleg penkovsky penkovsky passed information to the west often through win and kofsky loved russia. But not the soviet union and he really didn't trust khrushchev. He was a well decorated. Lieutenant colonel in the gru which was the soviet union's foreign intelligence agency that's why he had access to such detailed information that he passed on the that penkovsky passed through. Win would play a major role in the us. Response the cuban missile crisis in one thousand nine hundred sixty two between the us and soviet union in case. You aren't familiar with the cuban missile crisis. Let me give you a very short recap the. Us deployed ballistic missiles. Turkey in italy in response to soviet union built the it infrastructure in cuba. Which is only ninety miles from florida in the us to launch ballistic missiles. A war of words between the us president john f. kennedy who ordered a blockade of ships going to cuba and soviet for secretary nikita khrushchev finally ended with the soviets dismantling the cuban based missiles. There's more to it but that gives you the high level. The event is considered to be the closest to countries have ever gotten into full-scale nuclear war and the information from penkovsky alerted the us to the soviet build up in cuba. This really happened it something that screenwriter tom. O'connell made up. It was a real world thing so that's is much of the plot. Is i want to give away. So let's talk about the non spoiler stuff and the courier. this is spy movie impart. It has the intrigue intention of spy stuff there brush passes dead drops another stealthy activities. It also has the kgb monitoring people key ladies in the tourist hotels monitoring everything that goes on which was a reality. In the soviet union travelers people being captured getting hoods place over their heads. People shot or poisoned there. Even a few gadgets like a mini camera. James bond uses almost an identical camera in moon raker in nineteen seventy nine. one gadget. That i really liked was a hidden drawer within a drawer. Penkovsky desk. I thought that was really cool. So in short this is a spy movie. There's danger throughout all the movie especially that the principles could get caught which any spy movie needs now. The courier is not an action movie. Allah james bond or mission impossible in born. This isn't an action thriller. There are no high end stunts. Her long crazy car chases in this movie. Rather think of closer to something like the two thousand movie breach which was about robert hanssen or maybe tinker tailor soldier spy. Both of those movies were good spy movies without a lot of action just intrigue and suspense earlier. I said this was a spy movie in part now i saw this movie with my lovely wife and as we were driving home she said there really wasn't a spy movie. It was a movie about friendship and loyalty. And i think that's an excellent way to look at this movie. Yes this was about a real life espionage but the root of the movie was the unlikely and deep real friendship of the two main characters. These two guys who were thrown together by fate ended up spending a lot of time together. They went out on the town often and they even met each other's wife and child. It would have been very unusual for a foreigner to meet a soviet diplomats spouse and child during the cold war. I think that strengthens the depiction of the bond between them. We also have to remember that these two could talk with each other about what they were doing but they couldn't mention it to anyone else. Not even their wives. They needed to trust each other at one point in the movie. Penkovsky is asked by wins. Young son why. The soviets hate the british penkovsky response. Nails the movie. He says that it's the politicians who hate the other politicians. The people don't hate the other people. Explains the relationship very well now. The two leads murabwa enzi and benedict. Cumberbatch were excellent. Ninzy was nominated for a british independent film award for best supporting actor for this performance. I was actually a little surprise. Cumberbatch wasn't up for the best actor nomination there especially in the last quarter of this film again. We're not going to give spoilers there. But he was amazing and he lost twenty pounds to film the end of this movie. I'd love to know what he did. I have read that. He said it was horrible. The supporting roles were very well acted as well. Rachel brosnahan is emily. Donald represented the cia along with angus right. Who was playing dickie. Franks from i six. They're very good in their roles. Now dickie franks was a real guy. Emily wasn't and we'll talk about that more in just a minute. Jessie buckley turned in a very strong performance. Winds wife who was kept in the dark about what her husband was doing. I also thought that whoever cast cure hills as wins young son deserves a mention. This young man really looks like he could be cumberbatch his son and he performed his role very well. One other person. I'd like to call out is on the crew and that's keith man. He was the costume designer. Both my wife. And i commented how good the costuming was in this movie. It was very well done now. Unfortunately the whigs on the women were just they were hideous awful so it was unfortunate because the costuming was really good. Just the whigs weren't okay. So the story behind this movie is true. Some fact bending does of kerr in the movie here though and normally that drives me nuts when you're doing a real world thing and you change things a little bit but it seems to work here part of this because this is a movie about their relationship. The last quarter of the movie goes in and out between what really happened. In fiction namely a very pivotal scene has a conversation between penkovsky and win in real life. The conversation never happened however who was a very nice way to bring home the relationship between these two guys they really cared about each other in the scene showed it. I wanna give more away here. So you'll know the scene that i'm talking about when you see it also in this last part of the movie win has some tough things to deal with. This is where cumberbatch is really soared from me again. I don't wanna give it away but you will be impressed when you see it and a large part of it was true to what win really experienced in real life as common and movies about real world events characters are often amalgamations of several people. This is true here especially with the role of the cia. Contact emily donovan. She didn't exist in real life. But according to the movies director dominic cook she represented many real life. People most notably janet chisholm. She was the wife of a british officer who also passed information to the west from penkovsky. So that's about all. I wanna give away in this quickfire. Look at the courier. I think any movie fan will like this one especially if they're not expecting an action movie however one more thing that fascinated me comes in the first part of the movie we see tourists in russia stopped by a man and there s to deliver something. This was right out of the blue for them. They weren't spies. They didn't know who was asking her why they were being asked. They were told it was very important. What would you do in that situation. Imagine it's the cold war and you're a tourist in the soviet union. Someone hands you an envelope and asks you to deliver it for them. What would you do a little bit later. In the movie gravel win meets sticky. Franks for lunch. He's met francs only once before. When is a traveling salesman. He's not a spy he's just a regular guy while at this launch. He's asked to become a courier any finds out that this person works for 'em i six. He's told that because he's just a salesman. No one would be watching. Oh and you can't tell your spouse. What would you do in this situation. This one's a little bit different than the first one because it's for queen and country in the first case was just to tourists being asked delivered something here. He's being told. This is for queen and country to me. These are two of the most thought provoking scenes from the movie here. Pleased deliver this for me or your country needs you. We need you to perform. Spion is so. I'll leave you with one question. What would you do if you were placed in this situation. How would you not the people in the movie. Not the people from the real world scenario but you the person listening to this podcast deal with those two situations especially during the cold war fascinating stuff. And i think that's actually a key to this movie is what would you do if you put in that spot. So i'm glad i got to go back to the theatre again to see another spy movie. I really enjoyed it. This has been tommaso from spy. Movie navigator dot com. You can follow us on facebook twitter and instagram. You can subscribe to our show cracking the code of spy movies right now on your favorite podcast app. You'll find us on youtube as well. Thanks for listening.