Run time: 112 mins
Benedict Cumberbatch is a man on a mission in this gripping Cold War thriller.
As tensions between the USA and USSR reach breaking point in 1960, Russian intelligence colonel Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) wants to relieve pressure by passing secrets to the West. The CIA and MI6 select unwitting businessman Greville (Cumberbatch) as the courier, suggesting he expand his sales to Moscow. As the Cold War escalates, Berlin is divided, the Soviets begin installing missiles in Cuba and Greville’s assignment takes on a new urgency. Forming a covert, dangerous partnership with Oleg, he suddenly finds himself racing to provide crucial intelligence needed to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Based on an astonishing true story, this classic-style spy stuff, yet laid out in grounded, believable fashion. Cumberbatch is terrific as the hapless engineer in the eye of the storm. His personal friendship with the engaging Oleg is brilliantly captured, the two finding a commonality between their lives.
Suspenseful from the off, it’s a first-rate exploration of how average people quietly worked toward peace at a fraught moment in history, in full knowledge of the dangers they and their families faced. (Chris Coetsee)