TL;DR – While it might not stick the landing, it did engage me right up to that point
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Amazon Prime subscription that viewed this episode.
All the Old Knives Review –
Some films spark your interest from the cast list alone. One of those combinations is Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne, and Jonathan Pryce, all working together in a film. Add a layer of spies, subterfuge, regrets, and loves lost, and you have the groundwork for something interesting or at least something that speaks to me.
So to set the scene, we opened in Vienna, where terrorists hijacked a Turkish Airlines plane, Flight 127. At the CIA-Vienna outpost, all the team look in horror as the carnage unfolds. 8-years later, one of the terrorists involved was captured in Afghanistan, who let it be known that the terrorists had help from inside the CIA-Vienna station. Vick Wallinger (Laurence Fishburne) tasks Henry Pelham (Chris Pine) to investigate his former team, the second in command Bill Compton (Jonathan Pryce), his old love Celia Harrison (Thandiwe Newton), and the whole team. They need to find out if there was a mole in the department and if it caused the deaths of all those people.
From a structural perspective, this film is basically an integration of the past. Where you have Henry and Celia are sitting in a restaurant today, thinking back to the ramifications of the past, which we see played out as we get closer to tragedy. There are even some flashbacks, inside flashbacks. From the outside of things, this was a very standard narrative device bar for two critical factors. The first is that they are thinking back to the day of tragedy, reliving the moments leading up to a significant failure. The other is that there is an implicit mention that once a mole is found, they would not be making it home. All of this does mean that if you come into this film expecting action, well, that is not going to happen. But the dialogue-focused movie leads to some more interesting and suspenseful moments.
Because we are delving into the world of spies, you will come into this expecting a lot of duplicity and backcrossing, all of which are there. Indeed, this is a hunt for a mole, and the film does an excellent job of hiding who the mole is just out of sight until the reveal. Part of this is sold by the cast, who give their all, making everyone a plausible target. Watching Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton play off each other was both electric and fraught depending on where in the timeline the film was landing. These performances and the solid narrative base create a highly engaging watch.
However, I am not sure the film stuck the landing, with the final big reveal feeling out of place as if they had held their cards a little too close to the chest. It doesn’t take away from what came before but is more of an ‘eh’ way to end the film. From a production perspective, all the location work was solid, as was most of the sets and time appropriate set dressing. I will say, though, they didn’t quite get the lighting right in the restaurant set, and they maybe should have gone back to the drawing board with one of the wigs they make Chris Pine wear.
In the end, do we recommend All the Old Knives? Well, this is a mainly story-driven exploration of a mission that went spectacularly wrong and went wrong because of information on the inside. Give everything a solid narrative groundwork, and then add in some fantastic chemistry on top of that. Well, that is 100% my jam. But this is a slower-paced film, and the ending doesn’t quite land, so I am not sure it is a film that will work for everyone. If you liked All the Old Knives, I would recommend to you The Accountant.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of All the Old Knives
Directed by – Janus Metz Pedersen
Screenplay by – Olen Steinhauer
Based on – All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer
Music by – Jon Ekstrand & Rebekka Karijord
Cinematography by – Charlotte Bruus Christensen
Edited by – Mark Eckersley
Production/Distribution Companies – eOne, Chockstone Pictures, Big Indie Pictures, Potboiler Productions, Jackson Pictures & Amazon Studios
Starring – Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne, Jonathan Pryce, Corey Johnson, Jonjo O’Neill, Ahd Kamel, David Dawson, Nasser Memarzia, Orli Shuka, Abdul Alshareef, David Bedella, Oscar Coleman & Cali Gayle
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: na; Germany: na; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R