When I heard about this film, I was excited over two aspects: The cast, including Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, and Laurence Fishburne, all of who are excellent performers and who I have enjoyed on screen. I also was intrigued by the plot which sounded compelling and as though it would make an intriguing mystery. Fortunately, I was correct on both counts. The film cast provides amazing performances and the mystery provides an engaging thriller with unexpected turns.
All the Old Knives is a thriller film directed by Janus Metz Pedersen with a screenplay by Olen Steinhauer based on a novel of the same name by Steinhauer. In the film, ex-lovers, and spies Henry and Celia meet over dinner to reminisce over their time together at Vienna Station. The conversation migrates to the disastrous hijacking of Royal Jordanian Flight 127 which ended in the deaths of all on board. The failure haunts the CIA and as they talk, it soon comes to light that Henry has been sent by his boss, Vick (Laurence Fishburne) to close the books on the whole seedy affair but also reveals that someone on the station was a mole for the hijackers. Henry has been sent to determine who the mole is and it becomes clear one of them is not going to survive dinner.
One of the first elements I noticed was how well-written the film is. From the very first, the film is set up to introduce the scenario, first by providing us context and letting us see the aftermath of the deaths on Flight 127 and quickly introducing the main characters. Even as the film changes between the past and the present, it grounds us in the time and always provides a clear explanation of what’s happening in the movie. Even though there is plenty of mystery, intrigue, and misdirection, there is never any confusion about what the story is about and builds the intrigue and the relationship between Henry and Celia.
As critical as the mystery elements, the relationship between Henry and Celia is integral to those misdirects and to the plot as a whole. It is also extremely well performed. Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton’s chemistry sizzles on screen. The dynamic between them is rich, nuanced, and powerful. As the pair interact with each other, their emotions run the gamut, intense and emotional, both of them bearing the souls of their characters. Both in the current time period and the past, the film builds an intensity between the two that keeps audiences completely engaged.
Since the relationship is so critical, most of the rich dynamic between the two is created by the excellent performance both give. Chris Pine is excellent in his portrayal of Henry, powerful and compelling. He demonstrates skill in illustrating how his past relationship with Celia impacts him. Both show their emotions in subtle and powerful ways. Thandiwe Newton’s performance is full of layers, hints of hidden pain, emotion, and love, both for her character’s current family and the past love she has for Henry. Both are amazing at how well they demonstrate both the relationship and their actions in the present and past, both providing subtle clues to the ultimate fate of the dinner.
The pacing is slower, designed to provide the mystery surrounding the flight. I also found myself guessing some aspects of the film, including the identity of the mole, before the end of the movie. Even though the film is slower, it is deliberate and thoughtful to keep viewers guessing and to provide enough misdirections to keep the ending surprising. So even though the pace is slower, I found it does ultimately work to enhance the plot. The makeup and set design is also well done, especially subtly showing the aging of Henry and Celia.
If you like spy thrillers, powerful performances, and an amazing cast, this movie is one to watch. The performances are brilliantly portrayed, the chemistry between Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton fantastic, and even though there are some predictable aspects, there are still some surprises, especially the ending. I thoroughly enjoyed both Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton and I found the mystery well worth watching.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Misdirections
All the Old Knives
When the CIA discovers one of its agents leaked information that cost more than 100 people their lives, veteran operative Henry Pelham (Chris Pine) is assigned to root out the mole from among his former officemates at the agency’s Vienna station. His investigation takes him from Austria to England to California, where he is reunited with his one-time colleague and ex-lover Celia Harrison (Thandiwe Newton). The pair are forced to blur the lines between profession and passion in this riveting tale of global espionage, moral ambiguity and deadly betrayal. Directed by acclaimed Danish director Janus Metz and written by Olen Steinhauer, the film also stars Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce.
ALL THE OLD KNIVES opens in theaters and launches on Amazon Prime Video Friday, April 8, 2022.
ONE-LINER: Two CIA operatives, and former lovers, reunite at idyllic Carmel-by-the-Sea to re-examine a mission six years ago in Vienna where a fellow agent might have been compromised.