Running time: 1h 51min
Flash Point (PG) ****
Take an ordinary man or woman and thrust them into an extraordinary situation. That’s exactly what happens to an innocent “dupe?” without whom none of us may be alive today. Sit back and get a taste of real history in the appropriately titled The Courier. Made possible by Elevation Pictures this must see movie which also goes by the intriguing name of Ironbark should. be ordered pronto for your in home viewing pleasure by contacting your local cable company or internet provider as we patiently wait in our British Columbia homes prior to Covid lock-down restrictions being slowly lifted towards this summer.
Films based on real people and real events can be hit or miss affairs. Remember the 1960s. That was the unforgettable time of Twiggy, The Beatles, the mini skirt, Swinging Mod London and a rather glamorous spy who went by a particular number and the rather obscure name James Bond, “lifted” by writer Ian Fleming from the author of Birds of the West Indies while penning the exploits of a glamorous globe trotting MI6 agent at his Jamaican Goldeneye retreat. While the world eagerly awaits the 25th James Bond 2 1/2 hour would-be epic (?) who can forget the original 1960s blockbuster films starring the real James Bond, Sean Connery. From 1962-1967 Canadian Producer Harry Saltzman teamed with American Albert R. (Cubby) Broccoli and struck box-office gold. The first film, 1962’s Dr.No, had at its core theme The Cuban Missile Crisis which had the Americans facing off against The Russians over missiles stationed in Cuba. Only In James Bond land Russia and Smersh were displaced by S.P.E.C.T.R.E. During the mid 60s there was a spy film craze credited to the James Bond phenomenon. To counter this trend there were some highly respected serious spy celluloid efforts made which were best represented by Richard Burton in John LeCarre’s The Spy Who Came in From the cold and Michael Caine’s portrayal of Harry Palmer in four Harry Saltzman produced movies. Fast forward to today’s world and the arrival of The Courier. Perfect timing indeed as two innocent Canadian citizens are being held against their will in Chinese prisons on trumped up charges which is exactly what fate befalls the main protagonist of The Courier – only in his case the charges are real!
They say the best spies are elusive and keep a low profile. And certainly they don’t announce themselves by their real name and order customary martinis shaken not stirred. So British (and American) authorities are looking for an “ordinary” person to help infiltrate Russia and learn their most important secrets just like the Soviets and other hostile nations are doing to the West today. And vice versa. It never ends.
Pegged to go to Russia and “befriend” a high level Soviet official who may be a spy in his own right is mild-mannered straight as an arrow businessman Greville Wynn. Solid as a rock and as always bringing his A-game to the fore is Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange). No stranger to the serious espionage game as evidenced by his turn in the sizzling The Imitation Game in my mind the Tom Hanks of British acting is terrific as a man way out of his league who somehow is called into play to hopefully save the day while paying the ultimate price. Or does he?
To make this movie work you need an equally well-rounded Soviet spy who Greville is to ”connect” with by way of a trade mission – so common in business and government circles then and now. Man of the moment Oleg Penkovsky is a man on a mission who has all the right connections to the Russian hierarchy – along with a will to live and survive. Acing this role in a thoroughly convincing and riveting way is Merab Ninidze ( Bridge of Spies). The chemistry between the Russian and British businessman holds the key to countering the danger implicit in the Russian effort to nuclearize Cuba and perhaps destroy the world. How’s that for full on excitement.
Perhaps best known for the romantic drama On Chesil Beach director Dominic Cooke cooks up a tremendously charged thriller that thoroughly relies on atmosphere to deliver the goods. And it does with spine-tingling moments. Enhanced by a formidable back-up cast that shows the murkiness of trying to mount effective intelligence operations and the duplicitous character of many of the puppet masters pulling the strings The Courier is memorable, timely and most important of all meaningful entertainment that shines a bright light on history and freedom. It should not be missed(Robert Waldman).
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