Based on the book of the same name by Olen Steinhauer, All the Old Knives is a political thriller starring Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce. Directed by Janus Metz Pedersen, the movie is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from today, and follows the story of two spies, and ex-lovers, who meet to discuss an old case.
In the film, years have passed since the hijacking of Flight 127 ended in disaster, but after the CIA uncover new information about the incident, Agent Henry Pelham is tasked with re-investigating the case. It is believed that his ex-lover, Celia Harrison, may have more information about the incident than she previously let on, and it is up to Henry to find out what she knows.
After making contact with Celia, the two meet at a restaurant to catch up and talk about old times. Over the course of dinner, they discuss what happened on the day of the hijacking, leading to new revelations.
All the Old Knives is a decent, if not somewhat sedate thriller. The film revolves around a series of conversations, often on a one-to-one basis, with characters either sat in a restaurant, a pub, or a board room, engaging in discussion.
The majority of the movie is told through the use of flashbacks, with key information unspooled at various points in the story. There’s no major action in this picture, the whole film relies on conversation and intrigue, with audiences expected to engage with the material and become hooked on the unfolding story.
But while the film has an interesting narrative, with a plot that is teased out fairly well over the course of its runtime, it is a slow affair, and I can’t imagine much ‘hooking’ will take place. All the Old Knives is fine for what it is, but it doesn’t deliver that much excitement and it would be easy to become distracted or lose interest in the film.
If you sit down to watch this picture, it’s late at night, and you’re feeling sleepy, good luck staying awake. I’d place a bet on you falling asleep before the end of the film, or at least drifting off at different points in between.
Taking a more positive stance, the film has a good cast and they all deliver what is asked of them. Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton are capable leads, and they have a good rapport with each other.
There is a genuine feeling that these two characters could be ex-lovers, with the actors displaying a warmth and tenderness with each other. It’s not sparkling chemistry, but rather a connection that feels equally as strong.
Are the actors underused? I believe so, as these actors can do so much more; but in terms of what they are asked to do in this film, they hit all their marks and they help steer the story the best way possible.
The movie also looks good, and benefits from strong cinematography, as well as an excellent use of lighting. From a visual standpoint, All the Old Knives looks the business, and it is clear there is a keen eye behind the camera.
The film is also enhanced by a strong score. The soundtrack – from Jon Ekstrand and Rebekka Karijord – is beautiful, and really captures the tone of the story, its setting, and its characters.
So, on a technical level, everything is as it should be. The real issue here is that it is all a bit too slow and at no point does the pace ever quicken – not during the hijack sequences, not during the climax, and not even during a mid-point bonking session between the two leads.
The whole film operates on one level, which is clearly the intention of director Janus Metz Pedersen. This is his film after all, and I don’t expect any of the picture got away from him; everything that is placed on screen has been put here on purpose, and he has told the story in the way he intended it.
But All the Old Knives just never quite sings for me, and despite my appreciation for various elements of the movie, at times I did find myself a trifle bored or uninterested in some of the material. So, it’s not a terrible film, and I can see what the director is aiming for, but as far as I’m concerned, watching All the Old Knives is not a particularly thrilling experience.