Arts

Now streaming: The Courier and The Harder They Fall

The Courier: Benedict Cumberbatch as Greville Wynne
Damon Smith

THE COURIER (Cert 12, 111 mins, Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK Ltd, Thriller/Romance/War, available now via Premium Video On Demand rental, available from October 29 on Amazon Prime Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from November 1 on DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99)

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan, Jessie Buckley, Angus Wright, Keir Hills, Vladimir Chuprikov.

IN 1960 Moscow, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), who leads the State Committee for Scientific Research, becomes increasingly concerned about the bullish rhetoric of Nikita Khrushchev (Vladimir Chuprikov) and secretly makes contact with the US embassy.

CIA agent Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan) and MI6 counterpart Dickie Franks (Angus Wright) concoct a plan to send an ordinary salesman to the Soviet Union to make contact with Penkovsky and act as a courier for top-secret intelligence.

They hand-pick Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) for the assignment, who is initially clueless about the potential repercussions for his wife Sheila (Jessie Buckley) and young son Andrew (Keir Hills).

The salesman nervously heads to Moscow and quickly bonds with Penkovsky as Khrushchev stokes a war of words with the US and threatens to push the button on nuclear conflict.

The Courier is an old-fashioned spy caper inspired by real-life espionage at the height of the Cold War, which draws comparisons with Steven Spielberg's superior thriller Bridge Of Spies.

Both films evoke an era of paranoia and suspicion when East and West traded captured operatives.

Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt opts for a dark palette to reflect the political discord and seamlessly blend with archive news footage from the era, including Kennedy's 1961 address before the United Nations General Assembly ("Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles…")

Tom O'Connor's slow-paced script does not deviate from a well-trodden path. Cumberbatch elevates solid material with an eye-catching lead performance as the stiff upper-lipped husband and father, who puts his life on the line to serve his country.

Rating: 3/5

THE HARDER THEY FALL (Cert 15, 139 mins, streaming from November 3 exclusively on Netflix, Western/Drama/Action)

REVENGE is a dish served cold in a sharp-shootin' western directed by Jeymes Samuel from a script co-written by Samuel and Boaz Yakin, which recently opened the BFI London Film Festival.

Fearsome outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) learns that his sworn enemy, Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), is about to be released from prison.

Love gathers together his posse – old flame Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz), fiery-tempered right-hand man Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi), and Jim Beckwourth (RJ Cyler) – intent on hunting down and killing his rival.

However, Buck also has fast-drawing allies such as "Treacherous" Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield), and they won't flinch from a gunfight to the death.

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Arts