'The Courier' review: Benedict Cumberbatch delivers in a taut Cold War thriller

British and American espionage officers had been understandably keen to collect info from Oleg Penkovsky (Georgian-born Merab Ninidze, additionally terrific), a high-ranking Soviet official who has grown more and more alarmed by chief Nikita Khrushchev’s willingness to hunt confrontation with the West. But they want a technique to acquire entry to what Penkovsky is aware of, utilizing somebody “who the KGB won’t suspect” in order to gather his secrets and techniques.

They wind up approaching Cumberbatch’s Greville Wynne, a relatively staid household man who periodically travels to Moscow on enterprise. “I’m just a salesman,” Wynne protests, and he seems to be genuinely involved and apprehensive, earlier than lastly agreeing.

What follows, as directed by theater director Dominic Cooke from a script by Tom O’Connor, is a honest quantity of cloak-and-dagger gamesmanship, with Penkovsky making an attempt to reassure Wynne by telling him of the prying eyes on each of them, “I’m better at this than they are.”

Wynne, in the meantime, should maintain the entire operation secret from his spouse (Jessie Buckley), who turns into suspicious of his conduct, which incorporates extra curiosity in bodily health — and vitality in the bed room — than he beforehand possessed.

Cumberbatch is excellent at portraying Wynne as an peculiar bloke thrown into extraordinary circumstances, whose MI-6 and CIA handlers (the latter performed by “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s” Rachel Brosnahan) are involved about his welfare however nonetheless prepared to hazard him because of the dear info that Penkovsky is feeding them.

The film’s coronary heart, nonetheless, resides in the bond solid between the 2 central characters, whose loyalty to and compassion towards one another eclipses worldwide boundaries and tensions, unfolding previous to the Cuban Missile Crisis as a sobering reminder of the stakes concerned.

Cumberbatch has excelled in a variety of totally different espionage-type tasks, together with “The Imitation Game” and a model of John Le Carre’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” a decade in the past. He brings a complete lot of understated star energy to a film that in any other case advantages from how tightly constructed it’s, with out a lot of fats on its bones or embroidery round its edges.

On that stage, and others, “The Courier” greater than delivers.

“The Courier” premieres March 19 in theaters. It’s rated PG-13.

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