Review by Dan Skip Allen
Chris Pine is no stranger to spy films or franchises. In All the Old Knives, he plays a CIA agent who has to investigate a plane hijacking from six years prior. The hostage situation may have been compromised, so he has to go around interrogating his previous operatives to see which one was the culprit. One of those operatives was an ex-lover, played by Thandiwe Newton. There is more going on than meets the eye, though.
Besides Pine and Newton, this film boasts an impressive cast. Laurence Fishburne plays the leader of the CIA sub-office in Vienna, where this group worked. He answers directly to Langley, Virginia. Jonathan Pryce plays a grizzled CIA operative who's been on the job for a while. He may have some things to hide. The film is also filled with many other lesser-known character actors who all do a stellar job in their various roles as spies and or terrorists.
Spy films are usually filled with espionage, sneaking around and gunfights, and so forth. This film is a lot different from other spy films I've watched. It has a central focus which is the hijacking. Everything else builds off that, including the interrogation scenes with Pine and the other cast members. The problem is that all of this setup doesn't have much payoff. The viewer doesn't get much to get behind except a few conversations explaining what we've already seen. These scenes are mixed together and jumbled. It's a very convoluted plot and storyline.
Spy films and series can have complex storytelling and plot devices, but they still have competent writing and story beats that filmgoers can follow along with. A film such as Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy is a great example. It's a very complex but well-written and acted film. All the Old Knives tries to be something of a new take on the spy genre. It's just not very good. It's not that interesting, and the acting is just passable.
All the Old Knives lacks any sharpness that other spy genre films and television series have. It's too confused with what it wants to be and instead ends up being something hard to follow along with and very convoluted. It mixes too many story beats into this hour and forty-minute runtime. These complex subplots would work in a book but not in a film. I like the cast, but they were wasted on this subpar script and direction.
All the Old Knives hits theaters and Prime Video on April 8.