The Courier: Nail-biting Cold War drama

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Courier

The Courier is based on a true story about the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 1960s that almost ended in nuclear war between America and the Soviet Union. Even though I lived through that time and was glued to the news about it, this is a part of the story I never knew. The film is on Prime Video.

In The Courier, Benedict Cumberbatch plays British salesman Greville Wynne. He was a normal civilian with no connection to British Intelligence or the CIA. His line of work meant he would be able to travel back and forth to Moscow as a businessman.

Rachel Brosnahan in The Courier

Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan), an American CIA agent, suggested Wynne be recruited to carry messages between intelligence agencies and a Russian who wanted to provide information he hoped would prevent a nuclear war.

Merab Ninidze and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Courier

Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) was in Russian intelligence. He knew that Nikita Khrushchev (Vladimir Chuprikov) was putting Russian nuclear warheads in Cuba. He thought Khrushchev was unstable and unpredictable. He wanted to warn the Americans. When Wynne agreed to go to Moscow, he connected with Penkovsky and brought back over 500 photographs and documents. Several trips were involved in this spying operation.

Jessie Buckley in The Courier

Sheila (Jessie Buckley) was Wynne’s wife. His behavior changed so much after he started going to Moscow that she thought he was having an affair. He couldn’t tell her, but he was, in fact, saving the world from nuclear disaster.

Once the U.S. verified with photographs that there were missiles in Cuba, the tense face-off between President John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev was televised for all the world to see. Vintage TV footage of Kennedy was used, while Khrushchev was played by an actor. We in America were sure we were going to die before it was all over. People were building bomb shelters in their back yards.

Before the Russians dismantled the missile sites in Cuba, both Wynne and Penkovsky were arrested and thrown in Russian prisons. They were in prison for months and didn’t know that their work resulted in the missiles being withdrawn and the threat of nuclear annihilation being avoided. The British government managed to get Wynne home through a prisoner exchange.

Information at the end of the film said that Wynne lived quietly with his family until 1990. Vintage news footage of the real Greville Wynne was shown as well.

The story was well told and full of suspense. Excellent actors were used in every part. It’s an amazing story when you realize these two men saved the world.

Poster for The Courier

Have a look at the trailer.

Did you know this story before the film came out? What did you think of the film?

2 thoughts on “The Courier: Nail-biting Cold War drama”

  1. Anne Dimopoulos

    Admired this film enormously. Based as it was on true events, the denouement was even more gut-wrenching. Magnificent performances, authentic sets and backgrounds. Riveting.

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