CRITICAL / FILM REVIEW – Dominic Cooke’s “An Ordinary Spy” gives Benedict Cumberbatch another starring role. That of an average man who became an essential element during the Cold War.
An ordinary spy in the middle of the Cold War
In the 1960s, in the middle of the Cold War, relations between the United States and the USSR are particularly strained. In 1962, we reached the climax with the Cuban crisis. Indeed, the USSR places nuclear missiles on the island in the direction of the United States. An armament spotted by an American plane on October 14, 1962, which will allow President Kennedy to enter into negotiations with Khrushchev and, in the end, to obtain the withdrawal of Soviet missiles.
This crisis, which put the world in anguish for several days, would perhaps not have been avoided without information provided by Oleg Penkovsky, Colonel of the Soviet GRU (General Intelligence Directorate). The latter, seeing the escalation between the USSR and the United States, decided to betray his country by passing secrets to the West. But to recover these documents without betraying him, impossible to send an American agent. So, instead, it’s Greville Wynne, British businessman brought to travel to the East, who was in charge of this mission. An average man, without any training, who became overnight an ordinary spy.
A foolproof dramaturgy0
It is therefore on Greville thatAn ordinary spy focuses on. Directed by Dominic Cooke, the film relies heavily on this incredible story. No need to do too much to thrill the viewer. A disturbing feeling quickly develops with each trip to Greville. He who is only a small businessman not at the top of his form. To embody it, Benedict Cumberbatch once again delivers a great benefit. We can feel him feverish, without insurance, but gaining in motivation as he goes. Because if he remains at first puzzled about his role – which consists of meeting Soviet politicians and entertaining them to sell them English material, and thus get in touch with Oleg – he will realize that he can make a difference. to prevent a major conflict.
A position that will come first from Oleg for whom all Westerners are not evil. As he puts it so well, the problem first comes from the leaders of his country and the United States who do not like each other. This is how he will develop a strong friendship with Greville. A very well-built relationship in An ordinary spy which allows to go beyond the simple spy movie. It is moreover by this depth of the characters that we come to excuse the classicism of Dominic Cooke’s production. We obviously think of the film The Bridge of Spies (2015), but visually hard to come close to Steven Spielberg for someone who is originally a director of plays. Dominic Cooke is above all a playwright.
Interpreters make the law
We then retain fromAn ordinary spy, again, in the first place actor performance. As said before, Benedict Cumberbatch does not disappoint. The supporting roles worn by Jessie Buckley and Rachel Brosnahan are not left out. The first playing the wife of Greville who can not know anything about her activities. And the second playing an American agent, a necessary support for Greville. But we will especially note the presence of Merab Ninidze, who suggests a certain fragility in Oleg. Or rather an astonishing humanism. And this, despite his position as an experienced spy.
Thanks to this duo of interpreters, empathy grows for these characters and allows to accentuate all the tensions in one last chilling part. A terrible twist in this affair, as Hollywood cinema knows how to provide us, but which unfortunately is taken from a sad reality.
An ordinary spy by Dominic Cooke, in theaters June 23, 2021. Above the trailer. Find all our trailers here.