'All The Old Knives' review: Chris Pine leads sharper than expected espionage thriller
Courtesy of Amazon Prime
A chamber piece that is much sharper than it first appears though a bit restrained and underwhelming at times, Janus Metz’ “All The Old Knives” pits Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton against each other in a moderately engaging two hander that tries to find balance between steamy love affair and shady espionage. Adapted by Olen Stienhauer from his own novel, “All The Old Knives” is an appropriate title considering it feels like a throwback to simpler thrillers where you might be able to pinpoint the eventual finality of the picture, yet still be riveted at the smooth course of dialogue running through its veins. Metz pulls solid performances from his cast, which also includes Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pyrce in minor supporting roles.
Pine and Newton play Henry Pelham and Celia Harrison two former lovers and CIA operatives who’s relationship was fractured in the immediate aftermath of a 2012 Vienna terrorist attack abroad a Royal Jordinain Flight, one that resulted in numerous casualties and unquetionably became a political embarrassment for the United States’ top intelligence firm. Eight years removed from the incident, one of the hijackers confesses the attack was successful because of a mole within the CIA. With the intel, Pelham’s boss (Fishburne) enlists him to weed out the suspect and bring them to justice. This leads him to several former co-workers and, naturally, Celia who fled her home and career after the attack.
The two meet-up in a secluded restaurant after years of being apart to reminisce about the fateful attack and what begins as a charming tete-a-tete and slinging of niceties unravels into something far more measured and calculated. It might unravel at a pace unbecoming to those who end up streaming the pic at home, Metz, whose masterful sport biopic “Borg vs. McEnroe” dutifully captured the spirit of those two tennis rivals, does a fine job nursing the audience along with enough bread crumbs to see where the knives actually come out.
It doesn’t hurt that Pine and Newton are mostly aces, him with the chiseled jaw and suave movie star charm that radiates big Cary Grant energy and her with enough emotional devastation to fill an entire movie, helping foster a delicious cinematic environment that might work better as a stage adaptation. Uncovering the truth ends up being half the battle and though it doesn’t cut as deep as you’d want it too, “All the Old Knives” suggests rusty genres can still uncover new and somewhat meaningful ways of making an impact.
ALL THE OLD KNIVES opens in select theaters and streams on Prime Video Friday, April 8th.