The Benedict Cumberbatch movie Ironbark, which debuted to strong reviews at Sundance, has been retitled The Courier and will be released in theaters on Aug. 28 by Lionsgate and sister company Roadside Attractions, it was announced Wednesday.
Dominic Cooke (On Chesil Beach) directed the Cold War spy thriller, which co-stars Rachel Brosnahan, Jessie Buckley and Georgian actor Merab Ninidze.
Tom O’Connor (The Hitman’s Bodyguard) wrote the script, which tells the true story of an unassuming British businessman named Greville Wynne (Cumberbatch), who was recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history. At the behest of the UK’s MI-6 and a CIA operative (Brosnahan), Wynne forms a covert, dangerous partnership with Soviet officer Oleg Penkovsky (Ninidze) in an effort to provide crucial intelligence needed to prevent a nuclear confrontation and defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The film was produced by Adam Ackland, Ben Browning, Ben Pugh and Rory Aitken, and executive produced by Leah Clarke, Ashley Fox, Glen Basner, Alison Cohen, Milan Popelka and Josh Varney, as well as Cumberbatch, Cooke and O’Connor. The production also boasts cinematography from Sean Bobbitt, who shot 12 Years a Slave and The Place Beyond the Pines, as well as an original score from Abel Korzeniowski (A Single Man).
“Theaters have indicated gradual openings this summer, with health and safety guiding the way. If everything proceeds favorably, we feel the true spy thriller The Courier, with a must-see performance by Benedict Cumberbatch, is just the type of film that will have audiences excited to return to their local cinemas in late August,” Roadside co-presidents Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff said in a joint statement.
Cumberbatch was nominated for an Oscar for 2015’s The Imitation Game, but to be honest, I think anyone who played Alan Turing in that film was probably destined for a nomination. The Courier is a different kind of movie, but legitimate or not, it earned Cumberbatch awards buzz coming out of Sundance, where naturally, I failed to see it. Of course, things have changed since January, and while a late August release doesn’t scream “contender” to me, the mere fact that this film is getting a theatrical release at all in the current climate speaks to the studios’ confidence in the material. Still, this is aimed at older, upscale audiences, and those may be the last people to return to theaters once restrictions lift.
As for the title change, I’d say it’s pretty negligible, as neither one is great. Oh well! What’s in a name anyway? Cumberbatch isn’t a great name for a movie star, but I’d say he’s doing just fine. For more on The Courier, click here to watch our interview with Brosnahan, Ninidze and Cooke, and click here for our review out of Sundance.
North American rights to Benedict Cumberbatch’s civilian spy thriller “Ironbark” have been acquired by Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate out of the Sundance Film Festival, insiders close to the deal told Variety.
Roadside, the specialty label currently behind Oscar contender “Judy,” and partial owner Lionsgate emerged out of a competitive, days-long bidding process and won the title. UTA Independent Film Group repped filmmakers in the sale for domestic rights, with FilmNation handling international.
Spokespeople for Roadside and Lionsgate had no immediate comment on the matter. “Ironbark” previously sold out international territories at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018. Lionsgate grabbed U.K. rights during those sales.
The movie was one of the most anticipated sales titles headed into the annual Park City event, and serves as confirmation that the sales marketing is heating up after days of premieres and overnight negotiations. The world premiere was held on Friday night at the Eccles Theater.
In “Ironbark,” Cumberbatch plays Greville Wynne, an ordinary man tapped by his government to help end the Cuban Missile Crisis. The movie was directed by Dominic Cooke (“On Chesil Beach”) from a script by Tom O’Conner. Cooke was artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre from 2007 to 2013. His National Theatre production of “Follies” was nominated for 10 Olivier Awards. Cooke began his transition to television and film with the BAFTA Award–nominated Shakespearean adaptation “The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses” for the BBC.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan, Merab Ninidze, Jessie Buckley and Angus Wright co-star. Cumberbatch, who will film the sequel to Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” this summer, also serves as executive producer on the project.
Ironbark has just had its premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and we’ve already got some first impressions from audience members and official reviews! Unfortunately, Jessie didn’t attend the event, but we managed to catch a glimpse of her performance through the critics!
“It’s a film of broadly sketched relationships, shown also in the specificity-free marriage between Greville and Sheila, played by Jessie Buckley, a wonderful actor most recently underused quite criminally in Dolittle. She has some solid enough emoting to do here but it’s a token wife role, the kind I hope she won’t need to do within a few more years.” See the full review of Benjamin Lee from The Guardian clicking here!
“Of course, Wynne can’t tell anyone what he’s up to – not even his own family. Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, Chernobyl) plays Mrs. Wynne, and the fact that her husband once had an affair years earlier has her on high alert when his behavior suddenly changes after being recruited. Buckley is very good in a small role, proving once again that she’s one of the best chameleons in the game right now.” See the full review of Ben Pearson from Slash Film clicking here!
“WILD ROSE breakout star Jessie Buckley also has a really good part as Wynne’s wife, with us getting some insight into exactly what the lied-to spruce has to go through when her husband disappears on trip after trip to Russia, leaving her to her suspicions, with the added wrinkle that Wynne has, in the past, had an affair.” See the full review of Chris Bumbray from JoBlo clicking here!
“Jessie Buckley puts in solid work as Wynne’s wife, who suspects him of infidelity. These types of roles are largely thankless, making a successful rendering all the more impressive.” See the full review of Dan Mecca from The Film Stage clicking here!
“And Wild Rose and Chernobyl breakout Jessie Buckley does what she can with a role that’s just slightly above that of ‘concerned wife’.” See the full review of Adam Chitwood from Collider clicking here!
“Enter Greville Wynne (Cumberbatch, obviously), a jocular businessman of one kind or another who knows how to close a deal, and once sold his wife (played by the great Jessie Buckley, who brings real angst to a sleepy archetype) on staying together after he cheated on her some time ago.” See the full review of David Ehrlich from IndieWire clicking here!
“Cumberbatch and Buckley develop a pure and completely charming connection that adds a rosy hue to this dark portrait of the risks of espionage. Ironbark explores diplomacy, patriotism, virtue, and bravery, but above all else, Greville Wynne reminds us of the simple humanity at the center of every conflict.” See the full review of Joey Paur from Geek Tyrant clicking here!
“They’re bolstered by strong supporting appearances by Rachel Brosnahan as a CIA handler, and Jessie Buckley as Greville’s wife.” See the full review of Johnny Oleksinski from First Showing clicking here!
“As the sympathetic CIA agent Emily Donovan who wants to do right by Greville, Brosnahan is solid in an underwritten role. The same could be said of Buckley, who must play the angry wife who can’t understand why her husband keeps traveling to Moscow when his family needs him in England.” See the full review of Tim Grierson from Screen Daily clicking here!
“While he and Penkovsky grow fond of each other during their frequent meetings, the stress makes Wynne testy with his wife Sheila (Jessie Buckley) and son (Keir Hills); Sheila has caught him in an affair once, and she’s pretty sure the recent changes in his behavior prove he’s at it again.” See the full review of John DeFore from The Hollywood Reporter clicking here!
“Additionally, there are also power struggles in Wynne’s relationship with his wife — notably when he decides to put Penkovsky’s life first, which leads to turmoil in his relationship.” See the full review of Beatrice Verhoeven from The Wrap clicking here!
“Here, the analogy becomes literal, not because there’s anything homoerotic at stake, but since we learn that Wynne had cheated on his wife Sheila (Jessie Buckley) once before, which makes her understandably suspicious when he starts doing push-ups and disappearing on frequent business trips to the U.S.S.R.” See the full review of Peter Debruge from Variety clicking here!
“Benedict Cumberbatch is the real-life civilian Greville Wynne, a mild-mannered businessman in circa-1960 London with a wife (Chernobyl’s great Jessie Buckley), a young son, and a few ongoing projects in Eastern Europe.” See the full review of Leah Greenblatt from EW clicking here!