‘Ironbark’ Review: Benedict Cumberbatch Gets His Own ‘Bridge of Spies’ in a Decent Historical Dad Movie

IndieWire | 1/25/2020 | Staff
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While not quite as stiff as its title might suggest, Dominic Cooke’s “Ironbark” is unambiguously dad cinema down to its core. A confident, entertaining, and well-upholstered historical spy thriller about a regular guy who stumbles his way toward saving the world, it’s the perfect movie for anyone who watched “Bridge of Spies” and thought: “If only that had been 30 minutes shorter, a bit less artful, and a lot more British.” Never fear, the director of “On Chesil Beach” is here, and he’s naturally brought along Benedict Cumberbatch for good measure.

Holding a magnifying glass to a remarkable (but rather unheralded) footnote of Cold War history, “Ironbark” tells the story of how two men from opposite sides of the Iron Curtain forged a bond that would help avert nuclear armageddon. Cooke’s lean version of events begins in the heart of the Soviet Union circa the autumn of 1960, when a war hero and military intelligence colonel by the name of Oleg Penkovsky (an excellent Merab Ninidze, who you might recognize from his role in “Bridge of Spies”) has become so desperate to de-escalate tensions between Khrushchev and the White House that he walks the streets of Moscow in search of a random Yankee he might trust to deliver some classified intel to the American embassy. This is, of course, a reckless thing for him to do, least of all for someone in Khrushchev’s inner circle — a point that Tom O’Connor’s swift and defiantly unsubtle script makes sure to underscore with a bullet — but the world is on the brink of annihilation, and “an impulsive, chaotic man” has his finger on the button (a description that earned a rueful laugh of recognition from the crowd at the film’s Sundance premiere).

Word - Collaborator - Reaches

When word of such a willing and valuable Soviet collaborator reaches...
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