Hollywood Insider - News Entertainment & Culture

Substance & Meaningful Entertainment

Against Gossip & Scandal

Independent Media Network

Global Stories From Local Perspective

Factual Culture News

Hollywood Insider The Courier Review, Benedict Cumberbatch

Photo: ‘The Courier’/Lionsgate

‘The Courier’ -Thoughts on Navalny

In 2020, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned not once but twice with the nerve agent Novichok. His would-be assassins first slipped poison in Navalny’s tea. Months later, as Navalny recuperated in Germany, they put the poison in his underwear. Navalny, convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin was responsible, managed to draw out a confession from one of the men involved in the operation by calling the man from a spoofed phone number and pretending to be his superior performing a debriefing. Suffice to say, Navalny is a man on a mission.

Related article: The Complete List of 2021 Oscar Nominations – Celebrations, Surprises & Snubs | The Show Must Go On

Related article: Benedict Cumberbatch: 32 Facts on the Uber-Talented Actor on His Birthday

Despite these multiple attempts against his life, Navalny returned to Russia in January of this year to face trial. Photographed on his return flight through the slit between the seats, Navalny can be seen watching ‘Rick and Morty’ with his wife. There is something memetically fascinating about the idea that Navalny, facing down the gulag or worse, found comfort in the nihilistic defiance of Rick Sanchez. Upon landing, Navalny was arrested and sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment.

This led to the largest protests Russia has seen since 2013, with protestors facing subzero temperatures to gather outside in support of Navalny. In a speech he gave at his appeal trial, Navalny likened Putin to Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort and quoted Rick Sanchez, saying, “to live is to risk it all. If you don’t risk, you’re just an inert chunk of randomly assembled molecules drifting wherever the universe blows you.”

Codename: Ironbark

Since the Cold War, so much has changed and yet so much remains the same. ‘The Courier’, the new film by director Dominic Cooke, takes place at a time when humans being reduced to drifting molecules was not simply figurative rhetoric but considered to be the very possible outcome of the Mutually Assured Destruction resulting from a nuclear confrontation between the United States and the USSR.

Related article: MUST WATCH – Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s Love Letter to Black Lives Matter – VIDEO

Subscribe to Hollywood Insider’s YouTube Channel, by clicking here.

Chronicling events surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis, the film follows Col. Oleg Penkovsky, a Soviet military intelligence officer who, objecting to the saber-rattling of Nikolai Khrushchev, began to leak the USSR’s nuclear secrets to the West. In order to facilitate Penkovsky’s assistance without arousing Soviet suspicion, MI6 recruited unassuming businessman Greville Wynne to travel to the USSR to deliver secret messages.

While Greville Wynne–played by Benedict Cumberbatch in a vulnerable performance that strips him of his ‘Sherlock’ cleverness and his ‘Dr. Strange’ cockiness–gets top billing, the film’s greatest hero is absolutely Oleg Penkovsky. While Wynne amiably and earnestly bumbles his way through the early chapters of his spy career, occasionally sweating bullets in between vodka toasts and caviar on toast but always returning safely home to London, Penkovsky faces constant danger. Early in the film, he is gathered with other officers to bear witness to the unceremonious execution of convicted spy Major Popov. Penkovsky truly ‘risks it all’ to prevent what he believes could very well be World War 3. It’s worth noting that before marketing meddling the film bore the title ‘Ironbark’–Penkovsky’s codename.

Related article: The Power of Positivity: Ikorodu Bois + Chris Hemsworth + Russo Brothers + Sam Hargrave

Limited Time Offer – FREE Subscription to Hollywood Insider

Click here to read more on Hollywood Insider’s vision, values and mission statement here – Media has the responsibility to better our world – Hollywood Insider fully focuses on substance and meaningful entertainment, against gossip and scandal, by combining entertainment, education, and philanthropy.

Spies Like Us

In a commendable move, Penkovsky is played not by a Brit speaking English with a thick accent, but by bonafide USSR-born actor Merab Ninidze. Russian Cinema stars are somewhat rare in films produced in English-speaking countries, but to have a foreigner portray one of the country’s greatest heroes would be disrespectful. Ninidze, who had a bit part in Steven Spielberg’sBridge of Spies’ and appeared in a few UK and US television series, is phenomenal here in a marquee role.

With a face and demeanor reminiscent of a younger Bruno Ganz, Ninidze subtly conveys notes of despair and distress behind the poker face of a loyal Communist Party member. Penkovsky’s emotional journey is to rediscover a sense of fraternity through his unlikely friendship with Wynne, and it is a journey as delicate and wondrous to behold as the ballet to which Penkovsky proudly brings his new friend. Watching the two men watch ‘Swan Lake’ as they contemplate losing everything they hold dear is one of the film’s bravura moments.

Related article: Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase: “The Importance of Venice Film Festival as the Protector of Cinema”

Related article: The Masters of Cinema Archives: Hollywood Insider Pays Tribute to ‘La Vie En Rose’, Exclusive Interview with Director Olivier Dahan

While less emotionally transcendent than Ninidze, Cumberbatch does well with the film’s subtle script–it’s much more akin to John Le Carre than James Bond. When we meet Wynne, he is a relatively carefree British toff, self-satisfied in his abilities to cajole and charm his clients into opening their pocketbooks. While he’s well-off, his homelife is still recalibrating after his admission to his wife of an extramarital affair. Invited to lunch by recruiters, he’s starstruck to realize they’re spies, only to turn indignant when they frame his participation in their scheme as a matter of saving the world. Eventually, it’s Penkovsky’s charisma that lures Wynne into the world of espionage. Cumberbatch plays the newly-minted spy just shy of absurd, bobbing to the sounds of a boisterous brass band as he traverses the streets of Moscow.

East Meets West

The film is a bit uneven at times, perhaps hewing too close to authenticity without taking engagement into account. Then again, real life is a bit uneven at times. The film’s somewhat jaunty opening scenes eventually get replaced with dreary prison sequences, meaning Cumberbatch’s character goes from being out of the loop to being in lockdown. Cumberbatch’s character doesn’t get much agency, but the film does provide insight into what political prisoners really go through, even to this day.

Related article: Benedict Cumberbatch Roles: The Five Best Underrated Performances

Related article: Six Times Actors Broke Stereotype and Played an Unexpected Role

Cumberbatch and Ninidze’s blossoming friendship is the beating heart of the film but the rest of the ensemble, while excellent, doesn’t get enough to do. Jessie Buckley, who wowed in ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ and ‘Chernobyl’, is saddled with the part of Wynne’s once-scorned wife, meaning she sits on the sidelines drinking cocktails in the production’s well-designed 60’s wardrobe and decor. Rachel Brosnahan, the star of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ and ‘I’m Your Woman’, delivers thrills with a stirring monologue and a chase sequence, but the character is thinly sketched. Character actors Angus Wright and Zeljko Ivanek fill out their minor roles, but Anton Lesser, who recently stole scenes in ‘The Crown’ and ‘Game of Thrones’, is underutilized in a glorified cameo.

Perhaps had this been conceived as a miniseries like ‘Chernobyl’ these characters could have been more fleshed out. The film does continue its trend of casting Russian actors in its smaller roles, with impressive turns from Kirill Pirogov, Mariya Mironova, and Vladimir Chuprikov. It’s perhaps the most heartening thing about the film, seeing actors from East and West sharing the screen. Invited to family dinner at Wynne’s house, Penkovsky remarks of their breaking bread, “Maybe we’re only two people but this is how things change.” Maybe ‘The Courier’ is only a small film, but this is how things change.

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan

Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt | Editors: Tariq Anwar, Gareth C. Scales | Producers: Adam Ackland, Ben Pugh, Ben Browning, Rory Aitken

Director: Dominic Cooke | Writer: Tom O’Connor

By Trent Kinnucan

An excerpt from the love letter: Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”

Ways to support Black Lives Matter Movement to end systemic racism

More Interesting Stories From Hollywood Insider

Want GUARANTEED SUCCESS? Remove these ten words from your vocabulary| Transform your life INSTANTLY

Compilation: All James Bond 007 Opening Sequences From 1962 Sean Connery to Daniel Craig

Do you know the hidden messages in ‘Call Me By Your Name’? Find out behind the scenes facts in the full commentary and In-depth analysis of the cinematic masterpiece

A Tribute To The Academy Awards: All Best Actor/Actress Speeches From The Beginning Of Oscars 1929-2019 | From Rami Malek, Leonardo DiCaprio To Denzel Washington, Halle Berry & Beyond | From Olivia Colman, Meryl Streep To Bette Davis & Beyond

In the 32nd Year Of His Career, Keanu Reeves’ Face Continues To Reign After Launching Movies Earning Over $4.3 Billion In Total – “John Wick”, “Toy Story 4”, “Matrix”, And Many More

the courier, tthe courier, the courier, he courier, the courier, the courier, the courier, the courier, tthe courier, the courier, he courier, the courier, the courier, the courier, the courier, tthe courier, the courier, he courier, the courier, the courier, the courier, the courier, the courier, the courier

Author

  • Trent Kinnucan is a film and television critic, with over 5,000 film hours logged to date. He is devoted to maintaining an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema, with consideration for its history, its cultural impact, and its ability to create social change. Trent enjoys finding films that amplify voices otherwise unheard, and reveal images otherwise unseen. Trent’s interest in media coverage as a way to inspire meaningful dialogue led him to Hollywood Insider, a media network that consistently prioritises journalism and content with a purpose. Trent also recognizes that media is meant to be enjoyed, which aligns with Hollywood Insider’s penchant for tackling complex issues with levity and original insight. Trent hopes to share his love of film with others, and to help further expand the bandwidth of artists with something to say.

logo

Limited Time Offer: Join For Free Today & Get Unlimited Access.

Hollywood Insider focuses on substance & meaningful entertainment.

Quality of our content over quantity, transformation rather than titillation, and extraordinary instead of normal.

 

SUBSCRIBE NOW

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.