“The Courier” is the new film starring Benedict Cumberbatch that is set to make a play at the 2021 Oscars. Cumberbatch stars as real-life Cold War spy Greville Wynne, who used his Soviet source to aid in resolving the Cuban Missile Crisis. The film premiered to mostly favorable reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in January with the title “Ironbark,” which has since been changed to “The Courier” ahead of its Feb. 19 release date. As one of Lionsgate’s big films of this award season, it could be more in the hunt than prognosticators are currently expecting, especially with nomination voting set to begin on March 5.
Cumberbatch received multiple positive notices in reviews from Sundance, with The Playlist raving he is “enduring a physical transformation that would impress the likes of Christian Bale” and FilmThreat boasting he “proves yet again he’s a star.”
The Best Actor race has become competitive in recent weeks, with expected love for Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”), Delroy Lindo (“Da 5 Bloods”) and Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), but there might still be room for a late contender like Cumberbatch. See Gold Derby’s Best Actor odds.
The actor is a previous Oscar nominee for playing another notable British public figure Alan Turing in 2014’s “The Imitation Game,” so he is already in the Academy Awards club. With nomination voting occurring just a few weeks after the release of “The Courier,” Cumberbatch could be well-positioned due to recency. His biggest industry prize to date was winning an Emmy for “Sherlock: His Last Vow” (2014).
What could also give “The Courier” a boost is how much AMPAS continues to love films set during wartime, like Best Picture nominees “1917,” “Dunkirk,” “Bridge of Spies” and the aforementioned “The Imitation Game.” There are few films like “The Courier” in the awards race this year, so it could attract the attention of the faction of Oscar voters who love such films.