From its tense opening to its edgy end, ‘All The Old Knives’ is a film that captivates the viewer. Masterfully plotted, director Janus Metz Pedersen manages to create a patient thriller from Olen Steinhauer’s screenplay, which is adapted from the novel of the same name, authored by Steinhauer.
The film stars Chris Pine as Henry Pelham and Thandiwe Newton as Celia Harrison, both CIA officers and star-crossed lovers whose relationship was shattered by a terrorist hijacking that occurred eight years earlier.
Henry travels from Vienna to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, to meet Celia, where she now resides with a husband and two children. The two of them meet over dinner as Henry, who is still stationed at the CIA office in Vienna, learnt from Ilyas Shishani (Orli Shuka), one of his contacts, who confessed before his death that the hijackers of the ill-fated Flight Turkish Airline 127 were successful because of a mole in the CIA.
Still reeling under this high-profile incident, Pelham’s boss Vick Wallinger (Laurence Fishburne), keen on discovering who the mole was, assigns Pelham to check on retired Bill Compton (Jonathan Pryce), who now lives in London, and Celia Harrison, who after the Austrian debacle, decided she’s had enough and left the agency to settle down to live an ordinary life in California.
Narrated in a non-linear manner, the plot unravels at a slow pace, in an unusual fashion, around the dining table where Henry is eager to clear her name but perhaps more intensely interested in discovering why she had left him behind in Austria.
The film expertly manipulates the mood and atmosphere by juxtapositioning scenes from the past with those in the present.
Pine and Newton are compelling actors and share great on-screen chemistry, albeit one potentially born out of lust, but it is strong enough for the viewers to wonder alongside Henry why exactly did she run and run so far away. Since the narrative revolves around the duo, the rest of the supporting cast hardly has any scope to display their performances.
On the visual front, DOP Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s frames are impressive. She combines her skill sets and palettes intriguingly and solidifies two distinct vibes across the film’s timelines. The visuals and the soundtrack are meshed effortlessly by Mark Eckersley’s astute editing.
Overall, the film is a fascinating slow-burn, complex and immersive.
Film: All The Old Knives
Director: Janus Metz Pedersen
Cast: Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne, Jonathan Pryce, Gala Gordon, Corey Johnson, Colin Stinton, Ahd Kamel, David Bedella
Streaming on: Prime Video
Duration: 102 minutes
–By Troy Ribeiro