I keep forgetting the name of this movie– wanting to call it Knives Out, which it isn’t. It’s not as sharp, or entertaining. But it is engrossing. There are worse ways to pass the time than watching a rakish Chris Pine and alluring Thandiwe (formerly known as Thandie) Newton engaging in intense dialogue (and other stuff too) while seeking to unravel the mystery of who is lying to whom.
Here’s the gist: Eight years after a botched attempt to save more than 100 people on a hijacked plane, the CIA dispatches veteran operative Henry Pelham (Pine) to find out who in the CIA’s Vienna office at the time gave inside information to the bad guys. His investigation takes him from Austria to England to California, where his former colleague and ex-lover Celia Harrison (Newton) is living a quiet life with her husband and kids. The two spend hours upon hours sitting at a near-empty restaurant in idyllic Carmel-by-the-Sea, reflecting on old times and recounting the events surrounding the hijacking. It’s a slow-burning, dialogue-driven spy thriller filled with all the usual suspects and red herrings.
The film is based on a book by Olen Steinhauer, who also wrote the screenplay. So if you’ve read the book, and it ends the same way, you’ll either feel ahead of the game or cheated. It’s directed by Danish director Janus Metz who employs the same cinematic vibe he employed for 2017’s so-so dive into the Borg vs McEnroe rivalry.
In the end, All the Old Knives doesn’t quite cut it narratively. I didn’t feel like I had a complete enough picture or understanding of the plot, and motivations were ambiguous at best until the final act. Fortunately, the immersive experience is buoyed by Pine and Newton and a (under-utilized) supporting cast that includes Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce. All the Old Knives is rated R — more for sexuality and (equal opportunity) nudity than violence or bloodshed.
All the Old Knives hits select theaters and Amazon Prime Video on April 8.