British filmmaker Dominic Cooke was for many years the Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre. He successfully transitioned over to television and film to land the directorship and then collaborate with screenwriter Tom O'Connor to debut IRONBARK.
Based on true events IRONBARK is set in the early 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A high-ranking Soviet military intelligence officer and scientist, Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) was privy to classified information, that if carried out by his government leadership could have dire effects on the England, United States and the World. Oleg is able to warn the plans to British Intelligence and asks for a meeting. Oleg is a top Russian agent with travel privileges, therefore traveling abroad would not be suspicious matter.
The British Intelligence Agency confirms Oleg is telling the truth and understands that to devolve such information he is risking his life to save possibly millions. In order to smuggle the detailed documents, Oleg suggests a contact who could freely travel in and out of both countries that would appear legitimate--a businessman interested in the Russian market.
The Agency is skeptical of using a civilian for such a dangerous task but decides that an unassuming character could easily slide under the radar of suspicion. No one would suspect such a man would be working for the British M16 spy unit. The agency brings in CIA agent Emily Donovan (Rachel Broshanan) to keep an eye on the inexperienced; she works to recruit the targeted successful English businessman, Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is a remarkable salesman.
Wynne reluctantly agrees to be the British stealth agent but understands what is at stake. The first meeting with Oleg is nerve-racking and Wynne isn't sure he is the man for the job. Oleg assures him that he is needed, is the right person and guides him through distinct protocols to not be found out. Together the two work successfully and provide crucial intelligence used to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. Their unlikely partnership is recorded in history as one of the most heroic bonds ever forged to save humanity from being obliterated off the face of the earth.
Oleg and Greville could never have imagined the impact of their acts of espionage but at great personal loss. The documentation Oleg Penkovsky smuggled in the early 1960s is still used today for training purposes of study by the several intelligence agencies. What a legacy!