Film “The Courier”: How a Civilian Averted the Cuban Missile Crisis (Director Dominic Cooke, Starring Benedict Cumberbatch)

I wrote this article in Japanese and translated it into English using ChatGPT. I also used ChatGPT to create the English article title. I did my best to correct any translation mistakes, but please let me know if you find any errors. By the way, I did not use ChatGPT when writing the Japanese article. The entire article was written from scratch by me, Saikawa Goto.



Movies and books covered in this article

(Click This Image to Go Directly to the Amazon Prime Video Movie “The Courier”: Image from

I will write an article about this movie/book

Three takeaways from this article

  1. It’s hard to believe, but it was a civilian who stopped the “Cuban Missile Crisis.”
  2. When put in the same position, would you be able to make the same decision and take action?
  3. I believe there are also people in the world right now who, like Greville, are secretly standing up to harsh realities.

We can live in a world where “Cuban Missile Crisis was avoided” undoubtedly thanks to him.

Self-introduction article

Please refer to the self-introduction article above to learn about the person writing this article. Be sure to check out the Kindle book linked below as well.

Published Kindle books(Free on Kindle Unlimited)

“The genius Einstein: An easy-to-understand book about interesting science advances that is not too simple based on his life and discoveries: Theory of Relativity, Cosmology and Quantum Theory”

“Why is “lack of imagination” called “communication skills”?: Japanese-specific”negative” communication”

The quotes used in this article are based on notes taken at the movie theater from movies in Japanese and are not direct quotes from the foreign language original movies, even if they exist.

Against the Backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Incredible True Story of One Civilian Who “Saved the World” Without Exaggeration is Stounding

I may just have been ignorant because I was not originally knowledgeable about history, but I was surprised to learn the fact that behind the significant event in history, the “Cuban Missile Crisis,” a single civilian was fighting to save the world to the extreme.

If you just focus on the fact that “an individual’s decision can determine the fate of the world,” it’s a situation that can only be described as “science fiction.” The confidential information that a mere civilian smuggled out of the Soviet Union amounted to over 5,000 and is said to be “the most valuable information in history.” Normally, it would be too much for a person who was just an “ordinary citizen” until recently to handle. Thanks to his successful fulfillment of the mission assigned to him, we are able to live in a world where “the Cuban Missile Crisis was avoided.”

Benedict Cumberbatch played the role of a civilian who happened to get involved in the backstage of history and struggled in this excellent work.

Movie Summary

The story begins with an American tourist visiting Moscow, who is asked by a stranger to deliver a message to the American embassy.

The information is received by the CIA. Helen, who works for the CIA, visits MI6 in the UK to request their cooperation. The person who entrusted the message to the American tourist was Oleg Penkovsky, a high-ranking official of the Soviet Union’s Committee for Scientific Research. He was also a colonel in the GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff) and knowledgeable about the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons. He wanted to convey information about Soviet nuclear development to the West because of his “crisis awareness that impulsive people like Khrushchev have control over the nuclear button.”

CIA had an informant named Major Popov, but they lost contact with him. The CIA could not have known about it, but he has been ended up finding out to be a spy and executed. Because of this, CIA proposed working with MI6.

MI6 wanted to contact Penkovsky, but Helen suggested they use someone unrelated to the embassy and not suspicious to the KGB.

This proposal would determine the fate of one civilian’s life.

Greville Wynne was just an ordinary salesman who complained to his wife after losing at golf on purpose to close deals. One day, CIA and MI6 contacted him, pretending to be government officials. Greville was offered to become a spy, but he wasn’t given any specific mission. They told him it was better not to know for his own safety. All they asked of Greville was to go to the Soviet Union and continue his sales work as usual.

The situation was set up by the intelligence agencies. When Greville presented his pitch at the Soviet Union’s Committee for Scientific Research, Penkovsky approached him. He seemed to have recognized him by the tie pin provided by the intelligence agency. The two men naturally made contact, and Penkovsky was able to travel to England without being suspected. From here, it was the job of the intelligence agencies. Greville’s job was supposed to end once Penkovsky was safely brought to England… or so he thought.

It seems that Penkovsky took a liking to Greville. Unbeknownst to him, it had been decided that “he wanted Greville to take classified information Penkovsky stole back to”. Of course, Greville declined such a heavy responsibility. However, during their conversation, Helen told him that the “four-minute warning” was a lie.

It is said that a warning is given four minutes before a nuclear weapon is launched. However, even if you hurry home from your workplace, it will take at least 10 minutes. Therefore, your wife and children will have to flee to a shelter at home or at school. However, after looking at the plans, neither shelter is structurally strong enough to withstand a nuclear weapon. You’ll either keep calling a phone that won’t connect, or regret not taking the chance to avoid this situation.

In short, they are asking “If you get off here now, there might be a nuclear war. Will you regret it if it happens?” Greville was naturally indignant, saying “Are you threatening me?”, but ultimately decided to take on that role.

Thanks to Greville’s successful fulfillment of the heavy responsibility placed on civilians, it was revealed that the Soviet Union was trying to build a nuclear missile launch site in Cuba. As the world felt the crisis of nuclear war and tension mounted, thanks to the information taken out by Penkovsky and Greville at great risk, the “Cuban Missile Crisis” was narrowly avoided…

Movie Review

Overall, it’s a very serious story, but it tries to portray the situation in the lightest possible light in scenes where it is situationally acceptable, so I felt it was a well-balanced movie between seriousness and lightness. Especially, the music played in the movie is very pop. It’s a tense movie, but it’s not like being on the edge of your seat the whole time, so it can be enjoyed casually.

While watching the movie, I was made to think about various things, but above all, I felt, “Could I make the same decision or take the same action when placed in the same situation?” I think the development was especially impressive after Greville uttered the following.

Now use me.

The flow leading up to that moment was somewhat incidental, and it is fair to say that Greville’s own decision did not have much of an impact. Even at the scene where he said, “Are you threatening me?” it would have seemed like Greville’s risk wasn’t that great at that point. There would have naturally been a fear of “not knowing what would happen,” but compared to the subsequent developments, the level of decision-making was still shallow.

However, when he said, “Now use me,” it was not a situation where such a thing could be said. Of course, I understand that he had his own “inevitability.” However, I still don’t have the confidence to behave like that in that situation. I am surprised that this is what actually happened.

Also, while watching the movie, I thought about something like this. Even now, somewhere in the world, someone unknown may be struggling to “save the world” before a major turning point.

Throughout the world, there are constant demonstrations, conflicts, and wars. Even now, many people are feeling a sense of tension, worrying that “Russia might press the nuclear button”. There are many people struggling in various ways, and among them, there may be someone like Greville who plays a decisive role.

One person who comes to mind when thinking of “an individual saving the world” is the mathematician Alan Turing. He created a machine to decipher the German encryption machine Enigma, and it is said that he saved more than 10 million lives by shortening the war with the information he deciphered. However, the decryption was a state secret and Turing’s achievements were kept secret for a long time. In the end, he died in disgrace and it took a long time for his honor to be restored.

Alan Turing’s life is detailed in the movie “The Imitation Game.” Interestingly, just like the movie “The Courier,” it stars Benedict Cumberbatch.

Greville also had to keep his actions a secret, even from his wife. His wife and children had always thought that “he was an ordinary salesman”. This suggests that “someone close to you may have a heavy responsibility like Greville’s”. In this day and age of the Internet developed, it can be said that it is much more likely than before that someone close to you may be involved in ending a war in a distant country.

We must always keep such imagination.

As an example of the whole movie being portrayed comically, there is a scene where a husband is suspected of cheating because he had to keep his actions a secret from his wife. In fact, Greville had been caught cheating before, and his wife suspects the “unusual change” in her husband is another case of infidelity. Greville wants to explain that it’s not infidelity, but he can’t say anything. This creates a vicious cycle where the fact that he can’t say anything only increases his wife’s suspicion, making it very difficult for him.

It’s surprising to see the difference between the “unusual” and “usual” that Greville faces, but as a viewer, it’s an interesting part.


From the acting of the actors to the development of the story, every element of the movie was nothing short of “tremendous”. This article does not touch upon the ending of the movie. I strongly urge you to watch the movie. While I don’t want to bring up the perspective of “whether or not it makes us cry” in evaluating the movie, I couldn’t help but shed tears at the end of this movie.

Even if Greville had refused, the intelligence agency would have found a way to do it. However, Helen chose to “dare to” employ a civilian. I think there was a possibility that it might not have worked out with an intelligence agency person. Therefore, if Greville and Penkovsky had not worked, the Cuban Missile Crisis might not have been averted. Once again, it makes me feel that it is an amazing historical fact.

If this were not based on a true story, it would honestly be nothing more than a “below average spy movie”. There are no car chases or explosions that James Bond would face. It is precisely because it is based on fact that such a tremendous impact is created.

I hope you will watch this amazing movie that conveys an unknown historical fact.

Published Kindle books(Free on Kindle Unlimited)

“The genius Einstein: An easy-to-understand book about interesting science advances that is not too simple based on his life and discoveries: Theory of Relativity, Cosmology and Quantum Theory”

“Why is “lack of imagination” called “communication skills”?: Japanese-specific”negative” communication”

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