SYNOPSIS: A modern-day espionage thriller that follows Henry (Chris Pine) as he investigates Celia (Thandiwe Newton), a past flame from their days as CIA intelligence officers in Vienna, who is now under suspicion of having been a double agent. Using flashbacks to weave together multiple timelines, All the Old Knives peels back the layers of their past romance and exposes the truth behind a devastating terrorist attack they were unable to stop.
Screenwriter and novelist Olen Steinhauer dreams of an espionage tale that took place entirely around a restaurant table and that turned out to be "All the Old Knives" published back in 2015. Seven years later, the source material is turned into a feature length movie by Olen himself and stars Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton.
Pine and Newton stars as CIA operatives and ex-lovers, Henry Pelham and Celia Harrison respectively. After a terrifying terrorist hijacking on a plane by Muslim extremists which killed everyone onboard, Celia abruptly left both Henry and the service and settles down on married life in California.
Eight years later, Henry is assigned by his boss, Vick (Laurence Fishburne) to carry out an investigation when new intel shows that someone in the agency was actually feeding intel to the onboard terrorists. Thus Henry has no alternative but to proceed to grill his co-workers including Celia and her ex-boss, Bill (Jonathan Pryce) in London.
Rather than a globe-trotting trip that takes viewers through the dark alleys, roofs and sewers of old Europe, All the Old Knives as mentioned prior is contend to take place in a fancy restaurant. The gist of the story is told in flashbacks feeding viewers with morsel of information whether it’s through Bill, Celia or Henry’s interaction with his informant. The question lies in who was the one that makes the call to the terrorist during the attack? Is it Bill who conveniently left in a critical moment to attend to his wife? Or Celia who has been hopping suspiciously in and out of the embassy?
From the get-go, All the Old Knives relies heavily on the chemistry between Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton. Both to be fair exudes a sizzling amount of chemistry throughout with a steamy erotic sex scene thrown in. All by the way carried out in flashback of course. Everything about the attack and conspiracy seems secondary at best. The supposedly espionage thriller takes its time to build up the suspense and infusing it with plenty of red herrings before its reveal of a big twist in the end.
In other words, this Olen Steinhauer’s thriller is far more old-school than James Bond. There’s practically no loud gunfights or fancy gizmos involved. It’s mainly a talky movie with two old flames reminiscing about their romance and their unsettling past work affairs. As an espionage thriller, All the Old Knives lacks tension and a sense of urgency. On the other hand, the ever dreamy Chris Pine and the always elegant Thandiwe Newton are so good that you need to sit through all the way till desserts to find out the truth behind the mystery.
Review by Linus Tee