‘Ironbark’: Film Review

Variety | 1/24/2020 | Peter Debruge
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Movie spies typically fall into one of two categories. There are the butterflies — flamboyant secret agents like James Bond or “Atomic Blonde” who behave as conspicuously as possible. And then there are the moth-like kind, who do their best to blend in. The character Benedict Cumberbatch plays in “Ironbark” belongs to the latter variety, a fellow so boring that he’s virtually invisible, recruited for the specific purpose that the Russians will never suspect him of working for MI6. Strategically speaking, it’s a good plan, but maybe not the best formula to yield an especially thrilling thriller — although Sundance audiences seemed to enjoy watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” star Rachel Brosnahan playing a slightly more ostentatious (blonde-wigged) CIA agent.

Shaken martinis and martial-arts fight sequences tend to be a lot more sexy than watching whatever Cumberbatch, playing an English salesman named Greville Wynne, does to avoid suspicion in this intermittently interesting espionage drama — basically, going to the ballet, hosting business meetings, drinking with clients, while discreetly passing packages from a high-ranking Russian mole. “Ironbark’s” hook is the fact that it’s based on true events, and the underlying history deserves to be shared.

Time - Cuban - Missile - Crisis - United

Back in the early 1960s, around the time the Cuban Missile Crisis put the United States on atomic alert, MI6 approached Wynne with an unconventional plan. They’d received word from Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), a high-ranking Soviet military intelligence officer, that he was looking for a way to leak information about the country’s nuclear program. Rather than sending a trained agent to be his contact, they decided to recruit a civilian, who could come and go without attracting too much attention. Since Penkovsky was tasked with stealing Western technology secrets, his colleagues would view the relationship as being advantageous to Russia, not realizing that documents were flowing in...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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