Directed by: Dominic Cooke
Review by: Livi Edmonson
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel Brosnahan and Merab Ninidze, “The Courier” is a period piece retelling of a British businessman who unknowingly recruited into one of the biggest international conflicts in history regarding the Cuban Missile Crisis. The businessman, Greville Wynne (Cumberbatch) forms an unlikely alliance with a Soviet officer, Oleg (Ninidze), as they work together to sneak crucial intelligence out of Moscow in the wake of a nuclear war.
This historical thriller is a classic example of a Hollywood masterpiece. Had it been released years ago, it would have even been an Oscar darling, if not a classic. The film is nearly perfect in all aspects of traditional filmmaking. The cinematography is stunning, the storytelling is passionate, and the hauntingly beautiful score moves the drama along at a slow, anxious pace. But, it would take a critic, scholar, historian, or observant film buff to notice these small perfections, however. If you do not fall into that category, you will likely see the film as interesting but slow, looking past the small intricacies that make this film great.
This is not to say that a normal audience member would not enjoy this film — the story is absolutely riveting and insane in the sense that the events actually happened but have not seen the light until this film. The acting is incredible, as expected, with the stellar Cumberbatch, who participates in a bit of method acting and loses nearly 30 pounds for this role. If you are a history fanatic, then you will absolutely adore this film. But if you are bored by history and war thrillers, this film is going to feel a bit slow for you. Personally, stories like this one do not tend to capture my attention, but because the filmmaking techniques were so spectacular, I found that the precise shots and epic storytelling are what made the film entertaining for me. But again, if you are not one to recognize these tiny cinematic details, it is going to feel boring at times.
There is usually a traditional, historical film like this one that weasels its way into the hearts of awards season voters, but unfortunately, the film was not released in time to be considered. Had it been released earlier, I think that it would be that one old-fashioned flick that we always see in the running. But because the film is so old-fashioned, it lacks the certain ground-breaking pizazz that would make it a standout, “never been done before” film that wins over critics. Still, even the established traditionalism of “The Courier” was good enough to make it a critically-acclaimed phenomenon in the eyes of critics who prefer New Hollywood, independent filmmaking over classic conventionalism.
“The Courier” is everything you can ask for in a historical thriller, with a true story that is captivating enough to win over all types of audience members. This film is one of the only ones out right now that has had a strictly theatrical release versus a dual streaming-theatrical release. If this movie is out in your local theater, I suggest seeing it on the big screen, for it will only make the cinematic experience more enjoyable. I am not sure that a smart TV would allow the same experience that the elaborate cinematography brings to audiences in a cineplex setting. I give the film an 8 out of 10.