REVIEW: “THE COURIER” (2021) Lionsgate

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Benedict Cumberbatch is undoubtedly best when speaking in his own voice i.e, accent, giving us characters he can sink into and he proves this to us again in “THE COURIER”. Director Dominic Cooke along with writer Tom O’Connor, bring us this nail-biting tale based on the true story of Greville Wynn, a English salesman turned Cold War spy.

With Benedict Cumberbatch starring as our lead, Greville Wynne, who by all accounts is a happy-go-lucky English, drinking & golfing businessman who is married to Sheila (Jessie Buckley), and the father to Andrew (Keir Hills). Wynne is invited by acquaintance Dickie Franks (Angus Wright), to have lunch with an American “consultant” Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan), where he is pressed into “service” for Great Britain, and with the line “I can’t believe I’m having lunch with spies” tells us just how he thinks he’s sitting at the ‘cool kids’ table and you read not only the shock on his face, but the underlying thrill in it as well.

Wynne’s mission, should he accept it, (yes, I know – completely different movie but is just so apt here) and let’s be honest here, there isn’t much of a choice. is to travel to Moscow and collect nuclear defense images of Russia’s presence in Cuba from one Col. Oleg Penkovsky (Mereb Ninidze). Penkovsky is a high-ranking Soviet officer who has grown wary of Nikita Khrushchev’s (Vladimir Chuprikov) threats of nuclear war. Realizing how close to fruition they are coming, Penkovsky is willing to betray his country to save his family and the world, risking everything, including his life.

It’s a startling tale of what one person can actually do to change the course of the world and again, along with decent acting and the refreshing take of Cumberbatch not trying to do accents he just doesn’t succeed in, here it all comes together along with a top performance by Ninidze and Buckley as well. Brosnahan proves that she can be more than just ‘Mrs. Maisel’ as well, with a completely believable turn as the American who first helps turn Wynne from a salesman to a spy, and then is the one who steps in to help as well. ‘The Courier’ adds verifiability to the overall vibe with a look of a desaturated, grim tone color palette, which definitely set the scene for the movie.

All in all, this one is a good thriller with a remarkable story and tension that won’t let you go until the very end.

Grade: B

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Ginsberg/Libby PR

“THE COURIER” is available on Video on Demand (VOD) Friday, April 16, 2021.

REVIEW: “ALLIED” (2016) Paramount Pictures

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With Brad Pitt’s big return to the screen since his personal life news overtook his career for a bit there, we have him here in “ALLIED” as Max Vatan, a 1940’s wartime intelligence office who finds himself in a predicament with his fellow French Resistance (or is she?) spy and soon-to-be wife, Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard). A predicament I might add that can be figured out in the first 15 minutes of the film as Marianne makes a quote that let’s you know really where the film will end up going if you’re paying attention. And it’s exactly where it goes.

With uneven pacing and script, the film benefits from beautiful cinematography. The weakness in the lack of ability to successfully leave a lasting emotional impact on the audience, is in the writing and executive producership of it all. As we see Max and Marianne do a 30-sec assasination-shoot em’ up scene reminiscent of ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’, and they fall in ‘love’ in about half that time, makes it all a bit unbelievable and undercuts the storyline.
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For films that are not as much about the spectacle as they are the drama between characters and the challenge faced therein, it is important for personal/interpersonal relationships go beyond the screen to directly impact the audience. All the makings were here for a deeply moving cinematic story, but it just doesn’t quite make that transition from the mostly superficial and distant. The ending, which tried to be sentimental is done completely in an overly-compensated, dramatic fashion that comes off very falsly.

Supporting work comes via Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, August Diehl, Marion Bailey, Simon McBurney, and Matthew Goode. With no stand-out performances, and my screening being on a 50/50 basis of who liked it and who didn’t, I think it will do a couple of good weeks and the box office, but the competition along with a slate of excellent films coming out, might drag this one down after that.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening: Thursday, November 17, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
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