The Courier tells the “true story of the British businessman who helped MI6 penetrate the Soviet nuclear programme during the Cold War. Wynne and his Russian source, Oleg Penkovsky (codenamed Ironbark), provided crucial intelligence that ended the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Wynne is approached by a spy from MI6 and a spy from the CIA and asked to pose as a business partner of Oleg Penkovsky in order to gain intelligence relating to Soviet missiles being transported to Cuba. In the end, Both Wynne and Penkovsky are caught and Penkovsky betrays Wynne to save his family, while Wynne refuses to admit wrongdoings. Wynne makes sure Penkovsky knows his sacrifice is worth it. Penkovsky is executed and buried in an unmarked grave. Wynne is eventually released in a prisoner exchange for a Russian spy Konon Molody.
* * *
This film is based on true events.
By 1960, the nuclear arms race had intensified. The United States and Soviet Union now possessed weapons capable of wiping out humanity.
As Khrushchev and his American counterparts traded threats, many feared that the world was on the verge of imminent destruction.
[Khrushchev speaking Russian]
[continues in Russian]
AUGUST 12TH 1960
[man] Then what?
We can get tickets for something to see?
We can see the symphony.
It’ll finish really late.
We can catch the last train, huh?
Excuse me. Could you give me a light?
You’re Americans, yes?
Yes, sir. We’re on a summer trip.
Please, take this to your embassy. It is vital. I have no other way.
Come on. Let’s get out of here.
Do not go back to your hotel, straight to the embassy. Give this only to Deputy Chief of Mission. Understand?
FOUR MONTHS LATER
[Emily] Thank you.
Emily. Lovely as ever.
You do brighten up the old place.
Oh, thank you.
Please sit down.
Ah. I’ve brought you boys a present.
Ah, thank you.
Rachel, step out.
I fear a nuclear war is coming and I want to help you prevent it. It’s got my attention.
[Emily] He’s smart. Gave us a photo only we’d have copies of from a few years ago in our embassy in Turkey. Say hello to Colonel Oleg Vladimirovich Penkovsky. Code name “Ironbark”. Artillery officer during the war, decorated 13 times. Now he’s back in Moscow running the State Committee for Scientific Research. But that’s just a cover. He’s GRU.
Why they toss him? Hand like this I keep place to my chest.
[James] Because they have no way to make contact. The CIA is weak in Moscow after that… disaster with Popov. Am I right?
We’re thin on the ground. We need your help.
Let’s get him out.
We’ve got a number of good officers in our embassy. I’ll have one make contact with Penkovsky, get this sorted out.
[Emily] I did have a thought. This is a GRU Colonel. He’s so visible. I’m worried we could blow Penkovsky just by making an approach.
That’s always a risk. What would the CIA have us do instead?
I don’t know. Maybe use someone outside the embassy who the KGB won’t suspect? Say a businessman who travels to that part of the world.
Do we know of someone who could fit the bill?
[Greville] I have to warn you, I have a pretty good feeling about this. Oh, hell.
[man 1 laughs]
[man 2 laughs]
[man 1] And Greville, that is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.
[Greville grunts] Well, serves me right, I should keep my mouth shut.
[man 1 laughs]
[man 2] Now we have to make it up.
We probably have some brochures.
[man 1] Of what?
[Greville] A drink first, I think.
You know my reputation. Parts I want you to know anyway. [chuckles] I represent the top manufacturers who sell the best products on the market. So in combination with you gentlemen knowing your business, I think it’d be much better if instead of my usual song and dance. I just listen. You tell me what your problems are, and if I think I have a client that may have a solution, let’s talk it through. If not, let’s keep drinking. So tell me, what do you need?
[man] Thanks, Greville.
It still doesn’t add up.
Well, did you miss something maybe?
Like carrying the four?
[Greville] How are you?
Oh, very well. Except our son keeps confusing me helping with his homework with me doing it for him.
How was your day?
[Greville] Oh, the usual. Some empty flatteries and blatant sucking up. No, really, you should have seen me. I sold a dozen lace by throwing the easiest putt in the history of putting. I feel filthy.
No. No. You have to play golf badly. But aren’t you used to that?
[Greville] Uh-huh! Well, just think another 23 years of this and then we’re off to the good life. Or I could retire early. Andrew, you don’t want to go to university, do you?
[Andrew] Not really.
Well, I’m not feeding either of you.
Then what you’re smiling at? Be at least 50 years until you can retire.
[James] Greville Wynne, please?
Yeah. Let me see if he’s home.
Sounds like work.
No. Tell them I’m in my chair.
Yes. He’s just walked in.
Greville, this is James Dobie from the Board of Trade. We met last year.
Yes. Yes. At the reception of Whitehall. James. How good to hear from you.
[James] Greville. I hope you don’t mind. My friend Helen is a consultant in from the States. I thought, “Why not?”
Greville Wynne. A real pleasure.
Helen Talbot, likewise. James tells me you’ve been working in Eastern Europe.
Hmm. More and more, tremendous opportunities. Plenty of demand, no local supplies. Czechoslovakia, Hungary. Ghastly food. [chuckles]
What about the Soviet Union?
[Greville] Oh, not just yet. Someday. I’d like to see temperatures cool off a bit first.
Actually now might be the perfect time.
Oh, really? Why? What did you hear?
Well, Helen and I have associates who would be interested to see what might come of it. It would be a real service to Great Britain.
And the world.
Forgive me. I’m just a bit… Sorry. James, I know you said you had an office in Board of Trade. But… Is it possible that you actually work… at a different branch of Her Majesty’s government? Oh, my. This is unexpected. [stammers] Sorry, I… I don’t understand. Why, I’m… I’m… I’m just a salesman.
Exactly. An ordinary salesman with no connection to the government.
Look, this is all fascinating. I mean, I really can’t believe I’m actually having lunch with spies. [chuckles] But… [chuckles] [clears throat] …I couldn’t possibly… What would you want me to do?
Nothing dodgy, nothing illegal, just what you would naturally do.
[Greville] I’m sorry. I don’t follow.
Someone in your field hoping to do business in the Soviet Union, how would you get started?
Well, I suppose I’d set up a meeting with the State Committee for Scientific Research in Moscow.
That sounds fine.
So you want me to go to Moscow and then…
All this secrecy must seem absurd but I promise, it’s to help you.
We want you to act exactly like the ordinary businessman you are. That’ll be much easier if you don’t know any details.
Right. But would I be putting myself in danger? That detail, I… I have to know.
Greville, let me put this delicately, you’re a middle-aged businessman who drinks a bit too much and isn’t exactly in top shape. During the war, you were a private, never even saw combat. My point is, if this mission was the least bit dangerous, you really are the last man we’d send.
Well, thank you for putting it so delicately.
[Helen] Make sure you wear it while you’re in Moscow.
What does this do? Shoot poison dart?
Thank you so much, Greville. You’re a good man. And I know we can count on you to be discreet.
[Sheila] How’s your day?
[Greville] Oh, it was fine.
Mine was wonderful. Thank you so much for asking.
So sorry, I’ve got a head full of contracts. Uh. You out with, uh, Tomado, weren’t you?
Yes, we were at the club, planning the charity dinner. That was amusing.
Before you ask if you have to come, yes, you have to come.
I’ve had an interesting lead.
Might look at doing a little bit of work in the Soviet Union.
[Sheila] Hmm. Do stay out of The Gulag, darling.
[woman speaking Russian over PA]
How do you do? Greville Wynne, pleasure. How do you do? Greville Wynne, pleasure. How do you do? How do you do?
And this is the head of our committee, Oleg Penkovsky.
[Greville] Ah, pleasure to meet you.
Thank you for coming.
I’m not here to tell you what is best for Soviet industry.
You gentlemen know that far better than I ever will.
I’m here simply to open a door…
…to the top manufacturers in the West.
Your proposal is interesting. Would you like to have lunch?
Of course… after you.
[Oleg] It is good you have dealt with other communist governments but so far from home. Do you not prefer to work in England?
I do what I can to keep things interesting.
But then, there’s the political situation. This is not good time for East and West.
Well, what I like to say is no matter what the politicians are doing, factories still need machines, machines still need parts. I’m a businessman, so I stick to business.
Do you have a family?
I do, a boy, he’s ten.
I wanted a boy very much, then we had a girl… now she’s my world.
Mm. Likely not destroying your home like our son.
Now… most important question. If you want to do business in Moscow, I need to know…
…can you hold your alcohol?
It’s my one true gift. [laughs]
I want to show you another side of Russia. Are you free this evening?
Certainly. Where are we off to?
Do you know Cinderella?
Embarrassed to say, I’ve never been to the ballet.
Then your trip is already worth it.
If you will, mister.
Your tie clip, I like it. Where did you get it?
[Greville] It was a gift from a friend.
Is your friend American?
We can talk here. It is safe. I sent word to your friend, you’re, um… I think the word is “amateur”.
Yes, exactly. Amateur.
I’ve dreamt of this moment for a very long time. Thank you. I wish I could tell you how much this means.
I think I’d rather that you didn’t tell me. What happens now? I don’t need to do anything, do I?
[Oleg] No, you go home. Then you invite me to visit London with a trade delegation to meet your clients.
Your government would allow you?
They would be thrilled. Part of my job is to steal technology from the West. Your friend is clever.
Well, Oleg. May I call you Oleg?
In English, my name doesn’t sound good. Call me Alex.
You’re a good amateur.
[“Let’s Twist Again” playing]
Since you took me to the Bolshoi, I suppose I should take all of you to the West End. Some of the finest theater in the world.
[Alex] That would be good.
♪ Come on let’s twist again Like we did last summer! ♪
♪ Yeah let’s twist again Like we did last year! ♪
[man speaking Russian]
♪ Do you remember when ♪
♪ Things were really hummin’ ♪
♪ Yeah let’s twist again Twistin’ time is here! ♪
♪ And round and round and up And down we go again! ♪
And this is my wife, Sheila.
Nice to meet you.
[man] Nice to meet you.
Up yours, as well. That’s another one.
♪ Come on let’s twist again Like we did last year! Twist! ♪
♪ Come on let’s twist again Like we did last year! ♪
[all singing in Russian]
[Greville] Off you go.
[Greville] Hello, goodbye.
[Helen] We know you’re a patriot. We know how hard this must be for you. Colonel, whatever brought you here… it must frighten you more than the danger of being here.
Khrushchev. Khrushchev frightens me. He is impulsive, chaotic, a man like him shouldn’t have nuclear command. The West has fallen for his lie. A lie that Soviet regime is growing soft, it is not. Khrushchev wants confrontation with America. He’s looking for one.
Do you have anything you could share with us, documents, perhaps?
Would you like to read the new edition of Military Thought? I need assurances from you. If it becomes necessary… I must able to defect with my family.
Absolutely. Whenever you want.
I will remain in place… and keep you updated on the Kremlin’s thinking. But tell your government… they must use my information wisely. Not as a weapon… but as a tool to bring peace.
Despite what Khrushchev claims, America’s nuclear arsenal is still far superior to ours. We do not yet have first strike capacity. You can annihilate us but we cannot annihilate you.
But that won’t worry the Politburo.
Do you think in the end that’ll keep Khrushchev from going too far?
You have to be up in a few hours.
No, he’s right.
We can finish this up tomorrow night.
And one last thing… we need to talk about Greville.
Don’t worry. You won’t have to deal with him anymore.
It was Penkovsky’s idea.
You’re perfect, you’re a civilian, so the KGB won’t be watching you. You’ll be in and out of Moscow anyway to setup contracts. You still won’t know any specifics, you’ll just be a courier.
Just a courier for Russian sea… My God, I can’t believe you’re bloody serious.
We’ve gone over it with Penkovsky. We believe the risk to you is minimal.
And we’ll pay you.
I make my own money, thank you very much. I have a wife and a child. Either of you have a family? Oh, no. Don’t suppose you could tell me about that, not a lot you can tell me about, is there? Helen, James.
I can tell you we’d both put ourselves in harm’s way when necessary and this is terribly necessary, Greville.
Then might I suggest you find someone who’s suited for it. Sorry. I really have done all I can for you.
[Helen] Greville, listen. The four-minute warning, it won’t do you any good.
[Helen] The four-minute warning before a Soviet nuclear missile hits the UK.
No, I know what that… what are you talking about? That… that’s what this has all been about? Nuclear war? Come on.
See, here’s the problem for you. Your house is a 12-minute drive from your office, ten minutes if you really push, right? And you’re usually out on a sales call anyway, so you’re not getting back to Sheila in time. And Andrew’s school, that’s nine minutes from your house, 15 from your office, and no one’s getting to him either. He’ll get herded into the school basement. I looked up the building plans. That’s a sorry excuse for a fallout shelter. Same with your basement, actually. Only the government has decent shelters. What do you do? Hmm? You can spend those four minutes trying to get Sheila on the phone but you won’t be able to get through. Or you can think about how you might have helped stop this from happening… but you didn’t. And then, that’s it.
How dare you.
Truly, we’ll be better off if he doesn’t do it.
He’ll do it.
[Greville] No, I got it.
[Sheila] All right.
Welcome. Do come in.
Oh, vodka, lovely. I was just saying to Greville we didn’t drink nearly enough last night. Thank you. Uh, do come in.
[Alex] Thank you. This is for Andrew.
Very kind, thank you. This way.
Dad told me about Moscow. What’s it like in the rest of Russia?
It is very beautiful. Especially where I come from. A lot of trees, a lot of sky. You feel… very alone but in a good way.
[Greville] I’d like to see that. But then of course your government isn’t all that keen on foreigners just wandering around.
Do the Russians really hate us that much?
I think they’d like our children to be a little more polite, Andrew.
Our politicians hate your politicians. And yours hate ours, do not forget that. But the people, your father and I, we do business. We spend time together, I meet his family. Maybe we’re only two people… but this is how things change.
What if I get caught?
You don’t know that. They’d execute me, correct?
Not if they thought you’re just a courier that you took packages but didn’t know what was in them. They would hold you to trade for one of theirs.
For how long?
A couple of years.
Oh, just a couple of years rotting in some Russian Gulag.
They will not catch us. The KGB will have no idea. Listen, I’m better at this than they are.
Fine. But I’m not.
[Alex] Look, your work… it is only deception. Controlling your emotion. I watched you do it in Moscow, you did it tonight.
It’s really not the same thing.
If we’re caught, they would definitely execute me.
Well, I’m very sorry but that’s your choice.
[Alex] That is how sure I am that you can do this. I’m betting my life on it.
[Greville] How can I explain this to Sheila?
[Alex] She cannot know the truth. For her own safety, for yours.
[Greville] I can’t tell her any of it?
Well, what have you told your wife? Because you know what she’d say, “Don’t do it.” I’m right, aren’t I? Sheila’s no fool. And in the past, I’ve… given her reason not to trust me dully.
Then you have to lie better. There are good lies. Sometimes a lie is gift… an act of love. I’m sorry it has to be you. But, Greville… it has to be you.
In Moscow, you must at all times follow the rules of the art. In English, there’s a word.
[Alex] Yes. You must follow tradecraft. Everyone you meet, assume they are KGB, waiters, hotel staff, my driver, everyone. Even if they are not actual KGB officers, they still make reports to KGB.
[Alex] Every Russian is an eye of the state. Every room you’re in, assume it is bugged.
[James] Even inside our embassy.
[Alex] Especially inside your embassy.
Still, our embassy will be a good fail-safe in the event of any… complication.
[Alex] The KGB also uses lip readers. You won’t be able to tell who they are. So never discuss…
…anything sensitive unless I do first.
How’s your family?
Very well, thank you. How’s yours?
[Alex] We will be seeing each other often. To throw off suspicion, I will tell my colleagues I recruited you as a source.
[James] You’ll keep Colonel Penkovsky supplied with material on steel manufacturing, industrial production and so on. Unclassified, but hard to come by.
[Greville] They’ll believe I would do that?
[Alex] Of course. You are a greedy capitalist. You want to keep the contracts coming. And from now on, every moment you’re in Moscow, you will be selling one thing. The idea that you are an ordinary businessman and nothing more than an ordinary businessman.
[Greville] Well, gentlemen, I hope this is the first of many. Thank you all very, very much.
For good health and for business.
I should get you to the airport.
Yes, yes, please.
[Helen] Do you have any questions?
Gentlemen, ’till next time. Thank you.
[Greville] I want to be certain of one thing. I need to know that if anything happens to me, my wife and son will be provided for.
[man] You have my word… and I speak for the crown.
Thank you, Alex. Bye.
[Sheila breathes heavily]
My, where did that come from?
I missed you.
Well, just this one time.
Oh, every time, darling.
[man] They’re really gearing up for war. This is phenomenal. Ironbark’s the real thing. Well, this just became the biggest thing going in the whole Soviet Section. Now, if I keep you on this… am I gonna regret it?
[inhales] Hell! This is almost worth all the bullshit of dealing with the Brits. How is it with those assholes?
They’re good guys. I just have to make them think they’re in charge. Oh, this is such an honor. I’m… I’m learning so much.
[man over TV] Despite growing tensions between America and the Soviet, until this morning, there was essentially free passage between East and West Berlin. But overnight, without warning, the communist authorities have barricaded off the city. In response, President Kennedy has vowed to increase America’s military presence, directly speaking with General Clay who is stationed in Berlin.
Grev, would you think it’s safe to keep going to Moscow?
[Greville] Yes, certainly. It’s fine.
[Sheila] Even with all this?
That’s in Berlin, darling. Nowhere near Moscow.
[Sheila] Yes, I know where Berlin is and I know the Russians and the Americans…
[Greville] Please do let me…
…are killing any…
…run my business.
[man over TV] Today in the Arctic, the Soviet Union had a successful test of its Tsar Bomba or King of Bombs. With a yield of 50 megatons, this is by far the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated.
I have the figures you were asking.
Thank you very much. Very helpful.
[typewriter keys clacking]
[man over TV] Today, every inhabitant of this planet…
[woman] Just down there.
…every man, woman and child…
[man] Right here, ma’am?
…lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles… hanging by the slenderest of thread… capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.
[Greville] Do you have anything for me?
[typewriters key clacking]
Where are the raincoats?
Oh, right. Sorry.
It’s fine. The forecast is a sun.
No, it’s not fine. What if the forecast is wrong? What if it rains?
Well, we’ll want to stay in the tent anyway. We can read books. It’ll be lovely.
It’s not the point. The point is, I told you to pack the raincoats, I made myself perfectly clear. So why didn’t you do it?
Greville, are you certain this is how you want to start our holiday?
[Andrew] I… I… forgot.
You forgot? You know, that’s fantastic. I’ve got a son who’s too dumb to remember something…
Greville, Greville! Greville!
…as simple as packing the…
Your father didn’t mean that. Shall we start again, hmm?
Is he all right?
[sighs] He’s asleep. It’s a good sign.
Will you be all right?
Oh, fine. [mumbles] I really needed this holiday and it’s a good idea. Glad we came here.
It’s not just tonight. You’ve been so different lately. Greville, what’s going on?
Look, I didn’t want to tell you before because I… I didn’t want you to be involved. It’s the business. Yeah, we’ve… hit a bit of a rough patch.
[woman] That makes sense, doesn’t it? Men and money? My God, Colin went almost mad last year when his job looked the tiniest bit shaky.
I wish it made sense but it’s not just that. It’s everything. He’s exercising all the time and he’s become so… energetic in bed.
That all sounds so awful. [laughs] Poor you. [chuckles] I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t joke. [clears throat] I know Greville had an indiscretion once before but it doesn’t mean he’s having an affair now.
Then why is he so secretive with me? And defensive? And it’s always worse whenever he comes home from Moscow. That’s when it all started. Moscow.
[clicks tongue] Oh.
[Sheila] Might be better if you didn’t have to travel so much… better for our family.
[Greville] Darling, I told you, it’s very important. We need the money.
[Sheila] The money?
[Greville] Money, yes.
I thought you needed the club? And you haven’t caught any expenses and now we’re going to a smart restaurant.
Really, not quite certain, how I’m supposed to respond to that. I mean, why can’t we live the good life? It’s why I work.
Greville, I’m asking you to stop going to Moscow. I’m asking you as your wife.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. There is no one else, I swear.
I forgave you once, I never said I would again.
Hello, Nina. Very nice to meet you.
She’s never seen a foreigner before.
[Vera speaks Russian]
My wife apologizes. We cannot invite you for dinner. To bring a foreigner into one’s home, it is not done.
It’s all right. I’d understand.
You have a lovely family.
[Greville] Alex… when do you think you’ll be ready to defect?
[Alex] It is best if we do not talk about that.
Is something the matter?
Just a bit of trouble at home.
[sighs] One day, you will be able to tell Sheila what you have done and she’ll be very proud of you.
That might be a bit too late.
Sometimes Vera, she also struggles with my work.
Yes, but your wife married a soldier, mine married a salesman.
[Alex] You know why my government will not let you travel outside Moscow? They want to hide the suffering. In the city life is all right, but in the country where I’m from… I do not want this life for Nina. I want her to be free from the State. Someday, if our work succeeds, when I feel the danger is over, then I will defect. I will bring my family to Montana.
Yeah. I’ve seen some pictures, it is beautiful like where I grew up. Perhaps, I will become a cowboy.
[chuckles] You a cowboy? Oh, that I would like to see.
Yes. You must come and visit, with your family, please. I would like that very much.
I would like that too. All right. I will.
[typewriter keys clacking]
Thank you so much.
[man] What do you have?
I’m seeing references to a lot of new intel coming from the Soviet Section.
Can you access any of it?
No. It’s all way above my clearance. But I don’t think it’s coming from intercepts. It feels like they might have a source.
[man speaking Russian]
[Khrushchev speaks Russian]
[man] I… I just don’t see it for them to actually do that to try and sneak nukes into our backyard, I mean, it would be…
It’ll be like an act of war.
Even Khrushchev isn’t that crazy.
All I can tell you is that Ironbark wouldn’t be in the job he or she is in if he or she were an idiot. I hope we take this seriously.
Stay on this, guys. Work every Cuba source we got.
[Alex] Have a good flight.
[Greville] Thank you, Alex.
[knocking on door]
[Oleg speaking Russian]
[Oleg speaking Russian]
[Alex speaking Russian]
[Oleg speaking Russian]
[man] Ironbark gave us camouflage profiles for different kinds of missile installations so we could tell ’em apart. As soon as we get some U-2 photos we’ll know if Cuba’s got nukes or not. And whether Russian missiles can reach mainland US for the first time.
Can they get a U-2 in the air?
This time of year there’s just too much cloud cover. ‘Til October you’re all I got.
When I went back to my hotel they searched my room.
But they didn’t find anything?
Obviously he wouldn’t be here if they had.
I’m saying he’s still in the clear. It could just have been a routine check which he passed.
That’s it Greville, we’re pulling you out.
[Greville] But what about Penkovsky? I didn’t have a chance to warn him.
We’ll have to find another way to communicate with him, but you don’t need to worry about that.
No. You don’t understand. That’s why he’s in danger as well. If the KGB have been looking at me, they’ll be looking at him too.
He’s still set to come here for the trade fair next month, doesn’t he?
[James] Then he’s all right. If he was under suspicion they’d never let him leave the country.
But you will still help him to defect, won’t you?
Whatever he likes, he’s more than earned his retirement and Greville so have you. Outstanding work.
Oh, my God. So… so, that’s it. Cuba. What about Cuba?
Do try not to worry about any of this anymore. Put it all out of your head, best you can.
[inhales deeply] Understood. Well, thank you.
What the hell are you doing? We’re shutting down Wynne, now?
Please recall, Wynne is a British national. Any fallout from his capture would cause a major embarrassment for the government.
We have to know what Penkovsky knows about Cuba.
Which at the moment is nothing. He’ll be here next month, we’ll debrief him them. That’s all.
[woman speaks Russian]
I’m, uh… I’m closing all the accounts in Moscow. So I won’t be going anymore.
Sure you don’t want me to help?
I’m fine. Thank you.
[camera lens whirs]
[camera shutter clicks]
[Vera speaks Russian]
[President Kennedy] This government, as promised, has maintained… the closest surveillance of the Soviet military build-up on the island of Cuba. Within the past week unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missiles sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere. It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States. Requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union. I call upon Chairman Khrushchev to halt and eliminate this clandestine…
[Irina speaks Russian]
The Soviets are standing firm, but JFK is refusing to back down. It’s out of our hands now. Anything could happen.
[Greville] It’s time. It’s got to be.
[James] Time for what?
[Greville] Time to get him out.
[James] Greville, we can’t get him out.
[Greville] Of course you can. Well then, what did you mean when you said you were gonna help him to defect?
[James] Family holiday to East Germany, crossover in Berlin, to try and smuggle them right out of Moscow, I wouldn’t dream of it.
[Greville] But you’re MI6 and CIA.
I can’t get anywhere near Penkovsky now, so there’s no way to coordinate with him or plan it out. We’d have to kidnap him and his family off the street.
[Helen] It’d be a disaster.
[Greville] And if they won’t let them leave, then what?
[James] It was my idea to bring you into all this. I never should have done that to you. I’m sorry.
Well then, that’s it? We’re just going to abandon him and let the KGB murder him whenever they get round to it?
This is a hard truth. But if things were the other way around, Penkovsky would abandon you.
No. No, he would not.
He’s a professional. We use people. He would do just what I’m doing now. Move on. Go home. Go home to your family.
You’re the experts on spying and tradecraft and all of that, but not Penkovsky. You’ve met him once, I know him. He would never leave me to die. And I’m not leaving him.
[James] I’m afraid it’s not your decision.
You said the problem was, there’s no way to coordinate to let Penkovsky know about the escape plan but there is a way. Me. I can tell him… if I go back to Moscow.
You would do that?
[James] No, he wouldn’t. Because he hasn’t entirely lost his mind.
James, be a bloody professional. I’m volunteering to bring back the best source of Soviet intelligence you got at a time where Russia and America are on the brink of nuclear war. You talk about using people, for God’s sake use me.
If you go back to Moscow, I’ll go with you.
At no risk to herself. She’ll have diplomatic immunity. She thinks you’re a fool.
[Helen] I will do everything in my power to get both of you out of there.
[James] But I am telling you, don’t do it.
Oh, I didn’t know you were…
I have just one last account to close, then I’m finished. Truly.
Of course. Yes. And where are you staying tonight? A hotel I think would be best.
[indistinct chatter over radio]
Hi. I’m Karen Tucker. I’m the new press attaché.
Our assets will take a boat from Finland to Sosnovy Bor. Port security there is light. They’ll pick the Penkovskys up, ferry them back across. I need you to take the van and divert the KGB when we leave the embassy, okay? If we can just get the Penkovskys out of Moscow clean, we should be all right.
You’re going to do fine.
[man over TV] Permanent representatives of a large number of Member governments of the United Nations… to address an urgent appeal to you in the present critical situation. In the interest of international peace and security… all concerned should refrain from any action which may aggravate the situation and bring with it the risk of war.
[man 2 over TV] Now, we will explain what to do if a warning sounds when you are at home. You must immediately take cover. Send your children to the fallout room then turn off the electricity and the gas at the main.
Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the USSR has placed and is placing medium and intermediate-range missiles and sites in Cuba? Yes or no?
[man over TV speaking Russian]
[man over TV] And I’m also prepared to present the evidence in this room. Which you can all examine at your leisure, shows three successive photographic enlargements of another missile base of the same type in the area of San Cristobal. These enlarged photographs clearly show six of these missiles on trailers and three erectors. And that is only one example.
[Nina speaks Russian]
[man] Kennedy has sent the offer. If the Soviets take out their nukes, JFK will declare publicly that the US will stand down.
Think they’ll go for that?
I really don’t know.
Can I take you to the airport?
Oh, that would be perfect, thank you.
[man speaking Russian]
[Alex speaks Russian]
[man speaks Russian]
[air hostess speaking Russian]
Excuse me, what did they say?
They say, “We’re sorry for the delay.”
[man speaks Russian]
[man speaks Russian]
[Helen speaks Russian]
[Oleg speaking Russian]
[Oleg speaks Russian]
[both yelling in Russian]
I’m sorry, I don’t understand.
He said, come with us, Mr. Wynne.
Why, what’s going on? I don’t understand.
Mr. Wynne, please.
[man] The Union of Soviet Socialist Republic, has declared you persona non grata. You are hereby ordered to leave the country within 24 hours.
[indistinct chatter from TV]
[officer 1] Strip! Strip!
[officer 2 shouts]
[officer 1 speaks Russian]
[cell door opens]
[cell door closes]
[officer speaks Russian]
[Greville breathes heavily]
One, two, three.
[Helen] Thank you.
You were right.
You were right, too. We had to try.
Mrs. Wynne, I’m James Dobie with the Board of Trade, may we come in?
Oh, my God.
[James] It’s absurd, of course. The Foreign Office is hard at work sorting this out. But it’s a delicate situation.
Oleg Penkovsky has been arrested as well, which is quite serious. The Russians are claiming Greville was caught up in some sort of… well, espionage. The Foreign Office will be in touch soon. And while this is all being resolved, The Crown will provide for you and your son.
It’s true, isn’t it?
Greville was working with Penkovsky like they say?
[James] No, no. Of course not.
Can I call Greville, I need to speak to him.
I don’t think that’s…
No, I have to… I have to… I have to tell him that I’m sorry. [breathing heavily] I thought he was… My God, I’ve been so stupid.
Andrew, go to your room.
[Andrew] Who are…
Andrew, go to your room!
[James] I’m a friend of your father’s. He told me you have quite the trophy collection. Could you show me?
Andrew please, it’s all right.
Don’t tell me it’s not true. I know my husband. I know he’s been acting. Don’t tell me it’s not true.
There are things I can’t say to you. I can tell you that your husband is an incredibly brave man. And he needs you now. He needs your help, Mrs. Wynne. You see, once the Russians realize Greville is innocent, your government will be able to get him home safe. In time. But if the Russians do decide… that Greville actually is some kind of spy… I’m so sorry.
[Helen] So when you talk to anybody… that means your family… your friends, Andrew, and especially the press… you have to tell them that none of this could possibly be true. And you have to be very convincing. Can you do that? Can you do that for Greville?
I can’t imagine what Penkovsky could’ve confessed to.
I… I’m sorry, I don’t know what this is.
We know everything, we know that Penkovsky gave you packages to take to the West.
Well, yes, a few times.
Then you admit it.
Admit what? I didn’t know that I was doing anything wrong?
You think stealing Soviet intelligence wasn’t wrong?
[Greville] If that is what was happening, I didn’t know it. I never asked him what was in the packages, I didn’t think it was my business.
Who did you give these packages to?
[Greville] Well, I dropped them off in various addresses around London, I never thought anything of it.
Mr. Wynne… you were asking me to believe that you are very, very stupid.
[Greville] Oh, well, yes. I suppose in your world I am, but, look, I’m just a salesman. I want my clients to like me, so if that meant doing… a favor for Penkovsky every now and then, I really didn’t see the harm.
Ah! That is so sweet of you.
Oh, but I wish I could invite you in, I’m just… I’m in the middle of 20 things.
Oh, no, no. That’s fine. I’m so glad to see you’re well. It’s been ages, we’ve all been worried.
Yes, well, do say hello for me.
Of course. I saw that ridiculous piece in the Mail.
It’s so absurd.
You don’t think there could be any truth to it, do you? What they’re saying about Greville?
Don’t be ridiculous. How could Greville ever spy on Soviets, he couldn’t even hide his affair for me.
Thank you again for dropping by and this was so sweet of you.
We should have tea.
I’ll be in touch. Thank you.
Oh, all right. Bye. [clears throat]
[Oleg] For years the Americans have had the nuclear missiles in Turkey… aimed right at us. Oh, but how dare we put missiles in Cuba… is that fair?
I don’t know.
Mm. Do you realize your country has left you here to die?
No, sir, I don’t believe that’s true.
Why? Why? Why? For God sake. What have I done? [banging] I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do it, you… you fucking animals! [sobs]
SIX MONTHS LATER
[cell door opens]
[officer] You will not touch. Sit down. Sit down.
Oh, my God, darling.
I know I’ve been ill, but I’m on the mend now… and this will help. This will help. Very much.
What are they doing? What the hell are you people doing to him?
[Greville] It’s not like that. They’ve been quite respectful given the circumstance. You mustn’t fault them. Really. You mustn’t.
What you’re going through… it’s all so unfair. I’m sorry for what happened. I feel wretched for doubting you.
No, no. Couldn’t be helped. I’m really so glad you’re here. I missed you both… very much.
The foreign office said, that’s a very good sign I’m being allowed to visit you.
[Sheila] They said it might… it might still take a while yet to get you home since the Russians backed down in Cuba they’re being very stubborn right now.
What happened in Cuba?
Well, they removed the missiles. It’s… It’s all fine now.
No more about this.
[Sheila] And we’re trying very hard. It might take another… it might take another year… or two.
Tell me something about home. Tell me what I have to look forward to.
Well, the garden’s cooperating a bit. Finally. [chuckles] And we have tomatoes this year. And Andrew, he… he passed his Maths exam somehow. [chuckles]
You’d be proud.
How are you?
I’m… I’m all right. Really. If you can be strong enough for this… when you come home… I hope we can start again.
And I was very foolish. I’m sorry. But I just want you to know that every moment I’ve been here, I have done nothing but think about how I’m going to get home to you. Really. I will. I will. [snivels]
[man] It’s a matter of who. We can’t send someone of real value. Not for Wynne.
Wynne wasn’t valuable? We’re all alive, aren’t we?
He’s not an officer, is the point. If we propose an officer of theirs that sends a message about how we perceive Wynne the wrong message.
If you let Wynne die over there, and he will die, a lot sooner than you think. No one will ever trust MI6 to protect them. Ever again.
You feel guilty. I know. But you were doing your job and Wynne is our countryman, Emily. I promise… we’ll get him home.
[Oleg] If you think Penkovsky will protect you… you think too highly of him. He betrayed his country… his family… why not you? It is every man for himself. Yes?
I have not seen a mirror for a long time. I like to think I’m still quite worth… for the time.
I wasn’t sure I’d ever see you again.
I’m so sorry you’re here Greville. I hope you can forgive me for this… and for what I had to do.
What you mean, what you had to do?
I held back… for as long as I could. I have to protect my family, Greville. To save them, I had to tell the KGB the truth. All of the truth. I told them… I gave you pictures that… helped Americans find missiles in Cuba. And of course I told them… you didn’t know what was in the packages I gave you. Greville… I thought I could make the world a safer place… but I failed. All this… betraying my country, my people, all for nothing.
Alex… of course I forgive you. I have to look after my family, too. Easier now I know there’s not gonna be a nuclear war… because Khrushchev withdrew his missiles…
[cell door opens]
…because of you. Because of you. You. You did it, Alex. You did it. You. You did it. Because of you, Alex. You did it.
ONE YEAR LATER
On April 22nd 1964, Greville Wynne was released in exchange for the Soviet spy Konon Molody.
[Alex] Maybe we’re only two people… but this is how things change.
[Andrew] Daddy, where are you?
Greville Wynne resumed his career in business. He died peacefully in 1990.
Oleg Penkovsky was executed and buried in an unmarked grave. His wife and children were allowed to live quietly in Moscow.
Wynne and Penkovsky smuggled more than 5000 top secret military documents out of the USSR. Penkovsky is considered the most valuable Soviet source ever recruited by the West.
Shortly after the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a telephone hotline was established between the White House and the Kremlin. This has prevented the world from ever coming so close to nuclear catastrophe.
[man] Mr. Wynne, you’ve just spoken to your wife, what were your first words to her and what were her first words to you?
Frankly, we’re both rather speechless. There were no words for a moment.
[man] Do you have any idea of what you’re going to do in the future?
Oh, I want to get back to my normal business activities as soon as I possibly can.
[man] Well, is that to the same company?
With my own company.
[man 2] Will you travel in East Europe again?
Oh, now, that is quite a question which I can’t answer today.
3 thoughts on “The Courier (2020) – Transcript”
Greetings. I am the former Chief Historian of the Central Intelligence Agency and now a freelance historian. I enjoyed The Courier and applaud you for making a film inspired by an important episode of the Cold War. It inspired me write an article about the Penkovsky case in light of new evidence that had become available in recent years. I will fold in comments on the film as well.
I would like to ask a favor. Would you be so kind as the send the text of the epilogue that sums up the contribution the colonel and Wynne made to resolving the Cuban missile crisis? It was not include in the transcript. Much obliged.
Hi Ben, thanks for your message. The transcript has been updated with the missing text parts and general formatting has been cleaned, too.
Just to be clear, I’m not the maker of the movie, this is an unofficial transcript of made for personal use and to be shared with movie aficionados.
All the best
Brilliant! I was invited to compete in Russia in 1982. the Moscow I found them was closer to what this picture shows, than the Moscow of today. I had a KGB agent actually chase me and attempting to take my camera because i took a photo in the Gastronome in GUM. Did I mention I competed as a Runner? He didn’t stand a chance of catting me!