Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel Brosnahan, Jessie Buckley, Merab Ninidze, Angus Wright, Kirill Pirogov
OUR RATING: ★★★★☆
Period spy thriller directed by Dominic Cooke. Based on a true story, The Courier (2021) follows British businessman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is unwittingly recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history. At the behest of the UK’s MI-6 and a CIA operative, Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan), he forms a covert, dangerous partnership with Soviet Officer Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) to provide the crucial intelligence used to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.
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Our Favorite Quotes:'Maybe we're only two people. But this is how things change.' - Oleg Penkovsky (The Courier) Click To Tweet 'There are good lies. Sometimes a lie is gift, an act of love.' - Oleg Penkovsky (The Courier) Click To Tweet
Bertrand: [to Franks] I fear a nuclear war is coming, and I want to help you prevent it.
Emily Donovan: [referring to the photo] Say hello to Colonel Oleg Vladimirovich Penkovsky. Code name Ironbark. Artillery officer during the war, decorated thirteen times. Now he’s back in Moscow, running the State Committee for Scientific Research. But that’s just a cover. He’s GRU.
Emily Donovan: I’m worried we could blow Penkovsky just by making an approach.
Dickie Franks: That’s always a risk. What would the CIA have us do instead?
Emily Donovan: I don’t know. Maybe use someone outside the embassy, who the KGB won’t suspect? Say a businessman who travels to that part of the world.
Bertrand: Do we know of someone who could fit the bill?
Sheila Wynne: How was your day?
Greville Wynne: Oh, the usual. Some empty flatteries and blatant sucking up. No, really, you should have seen me. I sold a dozen lace by throwing the easiest putt in the history of putting. I feel filthy.
Greville Wynne: Well, just think another twenty-three years of this, and then we’re off to the good life.
Sheila Wynne: [after answering the phone] Sounds like work.
Greville Wynne: No. Tell them I’m in my chair.
Sheila Wynne: [over phone] Yes, he’s just walked in.
Greville Wynne: Is it possible that you actually work at a different branch of Her Majesty’s government? Oh, my. This is unexpected. I’m sorry, I don’t understand. I’m just a salesman.
Emily Donovan: Exactly. An ordinary salesman with no connection to the government.
Emily Donovan: I really can’t believe I’m actually having lunch with spies. But I couldn’t possibly. What would you want me to do?
Dickie Franks: Nothing dodgy, nothing illegal. Just what you would naturally do.
Greville Wynne: But would I be putting myself in danger? That detail, I have to know.
Dickie Franks: Greville, let me put this delicately. You’re a middle-aged businessman, who drinks a bit too much, and isn’t exactly in top shape. During the war, you were a private, never even saw combat. My point is, if this mission was the least bit dangerous, you really are the last man we’d send.
Greville Wynne: Well, thank you for putting it so delicately.
Emily Donovan: [referring to the tie clip] Make sure you wear it while you’re in Moscow.
Greville Wynne: What does this do? Shoot poison darts?
Greville Wynne: I’m not here to tell you what is best for Soviet industry. You gentlemen know that far better than I ever will. I’m here simply to open a door to the top manufacturers in the West.
Oleg Penkovsky: Now, most important question. If you want to do business in Moscow, I need to know.
Greville Wynne: Yes?
Oleg Penkovsky: Can you hold your alcohol?
Greville Wynne: It’s my one true gift.
Oleg Penkovsky: I sent word to your friend. You’re, I think the word is “amateur”.
Greville Wynne: Yes, exactly. Amateur.
Oleg Penkovsky: I’ve dreamt of this moment for a very long time. Thank you. I wish I could tell you how much this means.
Greville Wynne: I think I’d rather that you didn’t tell me.
Oleg Penkovsky: [to Greville] You’re a good amateur.
Oleg Penkovsky: I need assurances from you. If it becomes necessary, I must able to defect with my family.
Emily Donovan: Absolutely. Whenever you want.
Oleg Penkovsky: Despite what Khrushchev claims, America’s nuclear arsenal is still far superior to ours. We do not yet have first strike capacity. You can annihilate us, but we cannot annihilate you.
Emily Donovan: You’re perfect, you’re a civilian, so the KGB won’t be watching you. You’ll be in and out of Moscow anyway to setup contracts. You still won’t know any specifics. You’ll just be a courier.
Greville Wynne: Just a courier for Russian se…
Greville Wynne: My God, I can’t believe you’re bloody serious.
Emily Donovan: We’ve gone over it with Penkovsky. We believe the risk to you is minimal. And we’ll pay you.
Greville Wynne: I make my own money, thank you very much.
Greville Wynne: I have a wife and a child. Either of you have a family? Oh, no. Don’t suppose you could tell me about that. Not a lot you can tell me about, is there? Helen, James.
Dickie Franks: I can tell you we’d both put ourselves in harm’s way when necessary, and this is terribly necessary, Greville.
Greville Wynne: Then might I suggest you find someone who’s suited for it. Sorry. I really have done all I can for you.
Dickie Franks: [referring to Greville] Truly, we’ll be better off if he doesn’t do it.
Emily Donovan: He’ll do it.
Oleg Penkovsky: Maybe we’re only two people. But this is how things change.
Greville Wynne: What if I get caught?
Oleg Penkovsky: You won’t.
Greville Wynne: You don’t know that. They’d execute me, correct?
Oleg Penkovsky: Not if they thought you’re just a courier, that you took packages but didn’t know what was in them.
Oleg Penkovsky: They will not catch us. The KGB will have no idea. Listen, I’m better at this than they are.
Greville Wynne: Fine. But I’m not.
Oleg Penkovsky: Look, your work, it is only deception. Controlling your emotion. I watched you do it in Moscow, you did it tonight.
Greville Wynne: It’s really not the same thing.
Oleg Penkovsky: If we’re caught, they would definitely execute me.
Greville Wynne: Well, I’m very sorry, but that’s your choice.
Oleg Penkovsky: That is how sure I am that you can do this. I’m betting my life on it.
Greville Wynne: Sheila’s no fool. And in the past, I’ve given her reason not to trust me entirely.
Oleg Penkovsky: Then you have to lie better. There are good lies. Sometimes a lie is gift, an act of love. I’m sorry it has to be you. But, Greville, it has to be you.
Oleg Penkovsky: Everyone you meet, assume they are KGB. Waiters, hotel staff, my driver, everyone. Even if they’re not actual KGB officers, they still make reports to KGB. Every Russian is an eye of the state.
Oleg Penkovsky: And from now on, every moment you’re in Moscow, you will be selling one thing. The idea that you are an ordinary businessman, and nothing more than an ordinary businessman.
Greville Wynne: I want to be certain of one thing. I need to know that if anything happens to me, my wife and son will be provided for.
Bertrand: You have my word, and I speak for the crown.