True story. In the early 60s, at the height of the Cold War with Soviet missiles moving into Cuba, Oleg Penkovsky, a decorated Soviet agent (Merab Ninidze) concerned about the very real possibility of a nuclear war, contacted MI6 about what could be done to (literally) defuse the situation.

The Brits and a CIA agent (Rachel Brosnahan) recruited Greville Wynne, a mild-mannered salesman (Benedict Cumberbatch) who did business in Russia to deliver the mole’s evidence. The two ultimately changed the course of history by exposing the installation of the missiles.

This is a solid, old-school, character-focused, non-Bond spy movie by Dominic Cooke that eschews sensationalism (not a car chase to be had, though at one point someone briefly breaks into a run) yet conveys real tension, thrills and peril. Cumberbatch, who gained and lost considerable weight for the role, is always a pleasure to watch. And his chemistry with Ninidze is spot on. (112 min)

 

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