April 8th, 2022
MOVIE: ALL THE OLD KNIVES
STARRING: CHRIS PINE, THANDIWE NEWTON, JONATHAN PRYCE, LAURENCE FISHBURNE
DIRECTED BY: JANUS PEDERSEN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
Director Janus Pedersen is making it about dialogue in All the Old Knives. It’s a talkative piece of cinema, where it involves a pair of CIA operatives, having a meal, with one agent interrogating the other about a terrorist attack which took place eight months ago. It stars Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton, both two of the best at what they do and lovers at the time, but now rehashing all the details of that day, about what went wrong, and which member of their group of agents could have been the mole. I’d say All the Old Knives is engaging enough, where the drip drip of details pulls you along, but what it doesn’t do is have a shred of energy behind it. I love a good espionage thriller- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy comes to mind- where spies gather in rooms to talk, and the details can ramp up the tension. All the Old Knives is a bland mystery and it’s a shame too because Pine and Newton have a chemistry that is razor sharp.
The opening scene does not give a bid of confidence. It’s abrupt and clumsy, picking up at the moment when the terrorist attack has resulted in lost lives, with shock on the faces of everyone involved. Newton’s Celia Harrison bolts out the door, with Pine’s agent Henry Pelham chasing after her, and wondering what she’s running from. The set-up is that there’s a possibility Celia has had something to do with the failure but we’re offered nothing at the moment to explain why this should matter, with any impact landing in a disastrous thud. Lucky for us, All the Old Knives has an excellent cast, able to revive us before this moment sets in, stopping us from turning it off after three-minutes. And yet, even though you stick it out, one of the bigger problems of this movie is that it never delivers on much of anything, making the first inclination the right one. Trusting your intuition is the lesson to learn.
Within this CIA department is the leader of the team Vick (played effortlessly by Laurence Fishburne), with second-in-command a seasoned vet named Bill Compton (Jonathan Pryce), and under them is Henry in the field and Celia assisting Bill with other intel. The situation is that a group of terrorists have hijacked an airplane, holding the entire flight hostage, and demanding prisoners in Germany be released. What we know already is that everyone aboard the ship is killed, including an inside agent on the flight that was discovered, and now after 8-months the agency wants a full report from Henry on how this happened. Could the traitor be Celia, or was it Bill that cracked, or is it the man leading the team in Vick? Through dialogue, flashbacks, and deep conversation, All the Old Knives goes back and forth between past and present, from covert missions, possible missteps, and a love that was broken by this tragedy.
From a writing standpoint, All the Old Knives has the capacity to be engaging, the screenplay adapted by Olen Steinhauer from his own novel. The two leads are also incredibly sexy, both having charisma, and an appeal that an audience can’t look away from. It’s the direction by Janus Pedersen however, that offers little flare, and absolutely nothing in terms of texture or aesthetics. The rooms are bland, the costumes are never noticeable, and the color pallet is either black or gray. You wouldn’t be at fault for forgetting everything about All the Old Knives because there’s never a single moment to remember.
Midway through I was wishing that Chris Pine would be cast in a movie from a writer known for their words, such as Quentin Tarantino, Greta Gerwig, or Paul Thomas Anderson. His charming abilities, plus an uncanny way of being multi-faceted, makes him the perfect actor worthy of a richer text. All the Old Knives is one movie that has none of that going for it. As hard as everyone involved may try- and try they do- there’s just not enough going on here to excite. A cue could be taken from The Outfit a few weeks ago, that an immense amount of thrills can be created with only a little, and this has more to play with. All the Old Knives will be locked away somewhere in my mind, sadly it will be collecting a lot of dust.
ALL THE OLD KNIVES IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND AMAZON PRIME APRIL 8TH, 2022
Written by: Leo Brady