Intense Cold War thriller has courage, torture, smoking.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Courier is a fact-based British spy thriller set during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It has torture scenes, strong language, and smoking throughout. But it also celebrates the immense courage of two men -- Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) -- who work to save the world from nuclear war. Set in 1962, the movie depicts some sexist and misogynistic behavior. Men leer over their female colleagues, and wives are expected to cook and host when guests come over and to care for their children while their husbands are at work. Although he's the hero, Wynne is depicted as being flawed, with references to romantic affairs in his past. The movie's violence is quite shocking but never graphic and often more alluded to than depicted. Wynne is tortured with techniques such as a harsh bright light being shone on him all day. He becomes very thin, and there's a rough body-cavity exam upon his initial arrest. In one scene, he's beaten by a group of guards, with blood splattered on the wall. Other violent scenes include a man being shot in the head at close range and another being poisoned. There are mild sexual references and occasional strong language, including "f--k." Characters smoke and drink regularly throughout the movie, which is accurate for the time period.
This movie is BRILLIANT
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What's the Story?
THE COURIER (also known as Ironbark) tells the true story of Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch), a British businessman who was recruited by MI6 to become a Cold War spy. Sent to Russia to uncover some alarming truths about the Soviet nuclear program, Wynne begins working alongside their source, Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), as they try to find enough intelligence to put a halt to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Is It Any Good?
An impressive second feature from director Dominic Cooke (On Chesil Beach), this Cold War spy thriller thrives in the intensity that so often derives from undercover-based narratives. The Courier also boasts a brilliant central performance by Cumberbatch, in one of his finest roles for some time. Jessie Buckley, who plays Wynne's wife, Sheila, also continues to mark her status as one of the most talented young performers around.
There is a pensive quality to this film, and perhaps it takes a little while to generate excitement and heat. But while it lacks the same dramatic punch that comes with films such as Argo, there is still enough unwavering suspense to keep the audience gripped throughout. The patient viewer will also be rewarded with a fantastic final act.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the Cold War setting ofThe Courier. What were the historical implications of this time period? Did you know about this part of history? Did you learn anything new? Would you like to know more? How to talk to kids about violence, crime, and war.
Both Wynne and Penkovsky demonstrate courage, perseverance, and communication. Why are these such important character strengths to have?
How was drinking and smoking depicted in the film? Were they glamorized? How has our behavior when it comes to drinking and smoking changed from when the movie was set?
There are several scenes involving torture. How did you feel watching these moments unfold? Discuss the idea of using torture to gain information. Is it ever justified? Why is it problematic?
Discuss the depiction of women in the movie. Sheila, Wynne's wife, is expected to fulfill certain duties, such as caring for their child, and cooking their meals. Were you surprised to see what was expected of women during this time period? Have things changed? If so, how?
- In theaters: March 19, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: April 16, 2021
- Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Jessie Buckley
- Director: Dominic Cooke
- Studios: Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: History
- Character Strengths: Communication, Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, partial nudity, brief strong language, and smoking throughout
- Last updated: August 28, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
Bridge of Spies
Cold War thriller focuses on tension over action.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Excellent spy film mixes suspense and shocking moments.
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