All the Old Knives: Review
A tragic terrorist attack forever alters the path of two entangled CIA Agents. Eight years later, the cold and calculated Henry reunites with his lost love Celia as speculation around the case emerges.
Dressed in the cloth of cloak-and-dagger spy yarns, All the Old Knives embraces the slow-cook tensions of a poised and well-tempered narrative yarn. I am admittedly a huge fan of the subgenre, with recent hits like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Wasp Network entrenching viewers in the textured intrigue behind professional espionage. I wish I could say the same about All the Old Knives, a sturdy yet underwhelming descent into cliched espionage territory.
The potential is certainly there. Director Janus Metz’s poised craftsmanship creates a refined setting simmering with tensions under the surface. Each frame is composed with great intricacy, reflecting the prim and proper facade of the superspy characters inhabiting the narrative. All the Old Knives’ slow-burn approach also creates a viable canvas for its central stars. Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton share an electric rapport as former lovers reuniting over an unsolved case, while Laurence Fishburn and Jonathan Pryce prop up thin support roles through their sheer presence.
Everything about All the Old Knives looks the part, but the end product feels oddly detached. Screenwriter Olen Steinhauer remains one step behind the viewer’s expectations, spinning a narrative arc that rests rigidly on spy movie cliches. For a movie so reliant on the tensions of each sleight discovery, the generic plotting prevents each twist and turn from taking on its intended impact.
Competence aside, All the Old Knives struggles to ignite much interest in its by-the-numbers espionage narrative.