A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Courage, perseverance, and communication are all prominent themes, with characters going to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate these character strengths. There are also moments of compassion. But for every character trying to do good, there are countless others trying to foil them. The prospect of nuclear war is central to the story.
Positive Role Models
Both Greville Wynne and Oleg Penkovsky risk everything -- at great cost -- to try to prevent a war. The former even takes on a job purely on the grounds of compassion and wanting to save a friend, and not one he's required to do. Set in 1962, the society depicted is very male-dominated. Men are seen leering over a female colleague in the workplace. In addition, Wynne's wife is very much expected to cater for their guests and take care of their children. When Wynne's past is discussed, there's mention of infidelity.
Violence & Scariness
Character is shot dead from point-blank range. Another collapses in their office after being poisoned. A character is tortured in custody -- beaten with batons, with blood splattered on the wall. While imprisoned, the same character becomes very thin due to torture and a lack of care. Someone is stripped naked and bent over for a rough body cavity examination. The threat of a nuclear war looms throughout.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two characters kiss passionately. In the next scene, they're lying in bed, evidently nude under the covers and presumably after sex. When a character is having a shower, their bare behind is seen. Reference to past infidelity.
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Language is infrequent, but includes a couple uses of "f--k" and words like "h-ll," "a--holes" and "bulls--t."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink and smoke cigarettes frequently. Drinking at business meetings, social events, and in bars. Some characters also drink alone at home. Characters smoke in restaurants. A character gives alcohol as a gift to a colleague.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.