SPOILER ALERT: the following article contains massive spoilers, including the ending. If you have not yet seen the movie, proceed at your own risk, or better, come back to this article later!
The Courier is a true-life spy thriller, the story of an unassuming British businessman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history. At the behest of the UK’s MI-6 and a CIA operative (Rachel Brosnahan), he forms a covert, dangerous partnership with Soviet officer Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) in an effort to provide crucial intelligence needed to prevent a nuclear confrontation and defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Courier Video Summary
The Courier Plot Summary and Synopsis
The movie starts in 1960 when the world was on the verge of imminent destruction.
On August 12, 1960, Nikita Khrushchev threatens to bury the Western powers. Russian GRU Colonel Oleg Penkovsky applauds Khrushchev’s speech, at the very same time planning to offer his services to the CIA.
Four months later a CIA officer Emily Donovan arrives at MI6 Headquarters in London. She informs MI6 officials that Penkovsky got in touch with the CIA and is codenamed Ironbank. MI6 officer Dickie Franks decide to use British businessman Greville Wynne to contact Penkovsky so that not blow the latter’s cover.
Wynne meets Franks, posing as an adviser of a Board of Trade, and Donovan. She explains to Wynne his mission. Wynne is thrilled and agrees to help. He is to come to Moscow and act as usual. He also needs to wear a particular tie clip Donovan gives him.
Meanwhile in Moscow Penkovsky, with a group of his colleagues, is forced to watch the execution of a man who betrayed the Soviet Union.
Wynne arrives in Moscow. Penkovsky recognizes him because of the tie clip and invites him to lunch, and then to Russian ballet. On their way back to the hotel Penkovsky describes Wynne’s further steps – go back to London and wait for the Russian trade delegation.
Wynne meets the delegation and shows them West End, while delegation members take photos thus trying to steal British technology. Penkovsky pretends to be drunk, but when everyone else goes to bed, secretly meets Wynne who introduce him to Donovan. Penkovsky asks her to use his information as a tool to bring peace.
Wynne decides to stop his cooperation with the secret services, but Donovan tries to make him rethink his decision by detailing the threat to his family with the possibility of nuclear war. Penkovsky goes to Wynne’s house for a dinner with the same goal, and Wynne reluctantly agrees to continue.
The department lead by Donovan grows as the number of classified materials provided by Penkovsky increases.
Wynne becomes more and more nervous with every trip to Moscow. His wife Sheila starts to suspect something is wrong.
A Russian spy in the UK informs his Russian supervisor that MI6 has a source in Russia. KGB immediately searches Wynne’s hotel room and interrogates Penkovsky. A KGB officer Gribanov poisons Penkovsky with a poisoned cigarette. Penkovsky spends a few days in a hospital but recovers.
Wynne informs his MI6 supervisor about the incident and is ordered to stop the mission as Penkovsky is expected to attend a trade fair in London next month. KGB doesn’t let Penkovsky go to London.
Wynne decides to go to Moscow to help Penkovsky to defect, very emotionally informing Donovan and Franks about this. Donovan goes with him. Franks points that she is protected under diplomatic immunity.
In Moscow, Donovan plans a defection with US embassy staff, and Wynne informs Penkovsky about the plan.
The operation is scheduled for October 28, 1962, but KGB knows it in detail. Donovan, Wynne, and Penkovsky are all detained. Gribanov explains Penkovsky KGB knows about him being a traitor since his poisoning.
Donovan is immediately released and is declared persona non-grata. Wynne is thrown into the cage after being stripped naked and humiliated. Donovan is safely back in London. She asks Wynne’s wife to deny any and all allegations so that to help her husband to get out of prison.
Wynne doesn’t tell KGB anything despite the tortures and starvation. He insists he was just a courier and knows nothing of the intelligence passed on.
Six months later Sheila visits Wynne in a Russian prison.
Penkovsky is brought to joint interrogation with Wynne and confirms Wynne did not know what was inside the packages he delivered. Wynne assures Penkovsky that he achieved his goal of making the world a better place.
The Courier Ending
Penkovsky is executed and buried in an unmarked grave.
A year later, on April 22, 1964, Wynne is released in exchange for a Russian spy Konon Molody (Gordon Lonsdale), and reunited with his family. Later he resumed his business career and died peacefully in 1990.
The Ending Explained
The protagonist is safe back at home and is proud of his service to his country which helped to prevent global nuclear annihilation.
The movie claims to be based on real events but lacks historical accuracy, such as the fact that real Penkovsky informed KGB about Wynne’s existence who was arrested in Budapest, Hungary, the Russian satellite country at the time. A moderate, but stable Hollywood style interpretation of spy routine without James Bond’s movies gloss.
Source: © Cooncel.com.