All the Old Knives is pretty actors, pretty settings, and a pretty mediocre film. Opening the film with Chris Pine driving south along the California coastline in a Mercedes convertible is always a nice touch. Then, move the lovely couple to the Vin de Vie Restaurant overlooking the Pacific in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Clearly, Amazon Prime spares no expense in building this glass-walled restaurant on a soundstage in London. Likewise, the scenes of gorgeous Vienna are filmed in London. Shouldn’t a CIA spy story take place in locations designed to deceive the viewer?
In any case, All The Old Knives digs up all the old bodies best left buried. In 2012, terrorists kill all 120 on board Turkish Airlines Flight 127 on ground in Vienna. With one of their own on board, the CIA has one chance to avert the disaster. Failing to act, an investigation exonerates all those at the Vienna Station, but the loss haunts all to this day. Now, eight years later, one of the masterminds of the plot is caught in Afghanistan. Before he dies, he indicates a mole inside the CIA assisted his “operation.” Washington insists a re-opening of the investigation.
As a thriller, All the Old Knives likely works better in its best-seller form, or like Windfall, as a Broadway play. Mostly set in a restaurant with flashbacks to Vienna, the film generates little heat, and even less passion. I give All the Old Knives 3.0 Gavels and it receives a 65% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 6.1/10 IMDb score.
Despite his close relationship with Celia Harrison in Vienna, CIA boss Vick Wallinger orders Henry Pelham to find the mole and eliminate the problem. A first stop to her mentor, Bill Compton, reveals a phone call from Compton’s office to Tehran. Who had access to his phone and who made the call? Why did Bill leave the office shortly after the time of the call? Further, why did Celia quit the CIA immediately after the terrorist attack? Celia knew about the phone call on Bill’s log. Why didn’t she report it? Someone has to pay!
Everything considered, All The Old Knives is one of Chris Pine‘s better performances, certainly a cut above The Contractor. He’s much more comfortable as the suave spy (Henry) than down-and-dirty action hero. Is Thandiwe Newton (Reminiscence) miscast here as Celia? She never seems quite comfortable as spy, lover, or mother. Laurence Fishburne (Wallinger) and Jonathan Pryce (Compton) are two powerhouse actors, not on-screen nearly enough.
The failure of the original investigators to find the call to Tehran is so implausible as to implode the All the Old Knives plot. Another similar mistake is the final straw which leads to the “surprise” ending. The moral dilemmas the film tries to create just don’t carry the day, let alone the picture.
“All the Old Knives settles for all the old tropes.” Chicago Tribune
“A stiffly somber Pine, entombed in turtlenecks and long scarves, is introduced like he’s in one of those perfume commercials celebrities try to keep hidden overseas. Despite a few moments of tense intrigue, the rest of the film too often follows suit.” TheWrap
If you delve into the world of All the Old Knives, you might want to keep a cup of the old Joe handy. Otherwise, you might miss the end, not that that’s a bad thing.