In a scene from “The Courier,” from left are Benedict Cumberbatch, Angus Wright and Rachel Brosnahan. IMDb photo

“I can’t believe I’m having lunch with spies,” he said, with the glee of a 9-year-old entering Disneyland.

“He” is Greville Wynne, (Benedict Cumberbatch “Sherlock,” “The Imitation Game”) a British businessman who sells machinery parts on an international level, when his many trips abroad, including to the Soviet Union, catch the attention of the grey suits and thin lips of those in the CIA and MI6.

Greville uses public transportation in his daily life, and enjoys a drink or two, or three with pals on occasion.

There is no Aston Martin parked in his garage, and no long-legged ladies vying for his attention. Cumberbatch is a plain as white bread this time out, but for his thin Basil Rathbone mustache, with a wife and child at home in a boring neighborhood.

In other words, this is exactly what the CIA (a miscast Rachel Brosnahan) and MI6 (Zeljko Ivanek) were looking for.

And so we’re in director Dominic Cooke and writer Tom O’Connor’s perfectly crafted cold war snooker complete with Moscovian streets, alleys, walls and green rooms, skillfully blended with London’s cafe and night club smoke.

Our salesman Greville is flattered and manipulated into accepting this mission, should he choose to accept.

He is asked to deepen his relationship with Soviet Col. Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) who has been dealing with MI6 in an attempt to stop Khrushchev’s nuclear weapon/Cuba plans, that could pull Jack Kennedy and the planet into a full blown nuclear war.

At first, it’s all fun and games, but when the rain falls harder and the darkness deepens, our Brit hero’s mustache begins to droop.

Greville and our palms grow damper, when Abel Korzeniowski’s classical score throbs, and Cooke heightens the atmosphere with dropped messages, purloined dispatches, and Penkovsky’s forays into the KGB’s file catacombs.

Those of us who lived through the 1960 nuclear tennis games between Washington and Moscow that culminated with the Cuban missile standoff, realize that this is no fable, but a true story.

Both men are betting their lives on this deadly game.

The last 30 minutes is, in typical British style, a sudden rush towards Armageddon, when these two simple men caught up in a maelstrom of duplicity, should have realized that Rick in “Casablanca” was right, when he said, “The problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

filed under: