REVIEW: ‘All The Old Knives’ is Built on Chemistry

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All the Old Knives - But Why Tho

All the Old Knives is supposed to be a spy-thriller, but it largely finds itself unraveling like a noir detective film instead, just with espionage at the center. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The film is directed by Janus Metz with a screenplay by Olen Steinhauer based on Steinhauer’s book of the same name. It stars Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne, and Jonathan Pryce.

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). As the two unfold the past and connect the dots, they’re forced to blur the lines between profession and passion.

First and foremost, morality in All the Old Knives is ambiguous. While the premise at the start seems simple with “find the mole,” it becomes clear that things aren’t black and white but instead a whole bunch of gray. The way the film inspects the choices made that resulted in the hijacking and the extensive loss of life is where it excels. All the Old Knives slowly unpacks every decision and connects within a wider web of intrigue, sabotage, and fear.

For their parts, as Henry and Celia, Pine and Newton have unwavering chemistry. There is love and vulnerability but there is also fear and sadness. As the truth of the agent who leaked information comes into focus, the intensity between Henry and Celia grows. Despite the willful, slow pace of the film, it does consistently keep you engaged as truth twists the road you settle onto. Revelations and betrayal are packed into the film expertly, with the film’s third act and finale hitting an emotional conclusion that just works.

There really isn’t anything in the way of action in All the Old Knives. And while there doesn’t need to be, some of the marketing for the Amazon Original and the fact that Pine had an action-heavy film out a week prior may set the unreal expectations for All the Old Knives. Instead of a fast-moving espionage thriller, you get a story unraveling itself over dinner with different elements clicking into place as it goes on. In fact, there isn’t anything thrilling in the film, so much as there are noir-inspired twists, turns, and reveals that reveal themselves as the investigation is recounted.

If you go in with tampered expectations and are looking for a dialogue-heavy slow-burning mystery then All the Old Knives is the spy film for you. With an emphasis on slow, All the Old Knives is a success because of how Pine and Newton hold your attention, while also managing to never break the chemistry between them.

All the Old Knives is streaming now, exclusively on Prime Video.


All the Old Knives
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

If you go in with tampered expectations and are looking for a dialogue-heavy slow-burning mystery then All the Old Knives is the spy film for you. With an emphasis on slow, All the Old Knives is a success because of how Pine and Newton hold your attention, while also managing to never break the chemistry between them.