All The Old Knives review: outstanding cast fuels generic thriller

All The Old Knives
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We review Amazon thriller All The Old Knives, starring Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne, and Jonathon Pryce.

Based on the novel of the same name by Olen Steinhauer and directed by Janus Metz Pedersen, All The Old Knives is an espionage thriller set eight years on from a devastating plane hijacking that killed over 100 people. When it comes to light that the terrorists had inside information, CIA agents and former lovers Henry Pelham (Chris Pine) and Celia Harrison (Thandiwe Newton) meet for a dinner, that doubles as an interrogation aimed at finding the mole.

Flitting between the present day and the day of the hijacking, we get to see how Henry and Celia’s relationship has changed from then to now. However, the hijacking part of the plot is extremely familiar and holds very little in the way of depth or surprise – the film is really about our lead characters. And that’s very lucky, because the supporting ones are uniformly wafer thin. Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce mostly get by on being themselves, with Fishburne especially utilising his natural coolness to distract from his generic character (he’s Henry’s boss at the CIA). To be fair, it works.

Henry and Celia, on the other hand, have buckets of emotional depth. At times, Henry may seem to be serious and all-business, but he’s also haunted by the events of the hijacking, his inability to help, and his persistent feelings for Celia. 

Pine and Newton perfectly juggle their characters’ complex mix of emotions as the film heightens the present-day feelings of paranoia. Given that their relationship is so central to the plot and the events at its core, it was always going to be important for these two to have chemistry, and they really do. When they first meet for their interrogation-dinner, there’s a palpable tension that makes their history as ex-lovers who never got closure believable.

The hijacking plot may be simple and, at times, predictable, but fans of espionage movies will still get plenty of enjoyment out of this. It’s more about intrigue than action, but it’s absolutely never boring.

Some might critique the use of Islamic extremists as the terrorists, and this could be seen as being in bad taste. However, it’s offset a bit by the events of the hijacking being set in 2012 – a time when al-Qaeda was fresher in people’s minds, and Osama bin Laden had only died a year prior. It also doesn’t paint the leader of the terrorist group as completely unsympathetic, which is worthy of note.

All The Old Knives may be a by-the-numbers thriller with some completely expected turns, but Henry and Celia are very nuanced characters, and Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton are a great pairing who put in a couple of admirable performances. If you enjoy the genre and like the look of the cast, you’ll have plenty of fun with this.

All The Old Knives is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from 8th April.

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