Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my favourite contemporary actors. He seems to enhance any TV drama or film that he appears in. The Courier, a new spy film, is a good example. It's based on a true story that I recall distantly from my early childhood, and his performance makes the most of a competent script by Tom O'Connor (not the Scouse comedian, for sure). The director is Dominic Cooke, who was also responsible for the low-key but interesting On Chesil Beach, which I watched on a plane a few years ago.
Cumberbatch plays Greville Wynne, a British businessman who is persuaded by MI6 (represented by Angus Wright, playing Dickie Franks) and the CIA (Rachel Brosnahan plays Helen Talbot) to assist with a plan to find out about the Soviet nuclear plans with the help of Oleg Penkovsky, a senior official who is contemplating defection.
From what I have read of Wynne, he was a bit of a fantasist, certainly in later life, but he also had plenty of courage, risking his life to assist the security services. If you're not familiar with the story, I won't spoil it for you, but suffice to say that this is a good spy yarn, lifted out of the common run by Cumberbatch's performance. Jessie Buckley is also very good as Wynne's long-suffering wife Sheila. There's a smallish part for the ever-reliable Anton Lesser.
Recent events in the Ukraine have provided depressing evidence that although the Cold War may be long over, international tensions remain and are becoming acute. The events explored in The Courier serve as a reminder of the tragedies that can occur when political vanity and aggression get out of hand. It's definitely worth watching.