Movie trailers should be simple business, right? You’re making an advert for a film to encourage people to see it. Although, you need to find the right balance between showing enough to get people excited and not giving too much away. When I saw the preview for All The Old Knives on Prime, I immediately knew how it was going to end. It was so bloody obvious. So, of course, I had to watch it to see if I was right.
What I didn’t know was that this film is based on a novel by American author Olen Steinhauer. Steinhauer also wrote the screenplay for the adaptation of his spy thriller. And it has that traditional spy thriller feel and look. There are plenty of scenes where people brood in the dark and sit around looking worried. There are also plenty of moments where people stare at each other in silence. Although, a lot of film actually focuses on two people just say having dinner together. It’s an interesting concept for a thriller and one that had a lot of potential to be a tense experience.
Chris Pine plays Henry Pelham, a CIA agent. He is tasked with investigating a terrorist attack that happened years earlier. A terrorist attack involving a plane getting hijacked that ended in trgedy New information has come to light that there was a leak inside the CIA office where Henry and his colleagues worked. Pelham must track down two fellow agents and work out if either of them was lying. This includes his former lover Celia Harrison. The pair meet at a secluded restaurant and Celia takes Henry through the events of the terrorist attack. Will their history cause problems for Pelham’s investigation?
Although, let’s be honest, it’s really obvious who the insider really is. Meaning there’s absolutely no tension here. What should have an intense head-to-head between two agents is actually just a dull conversation that is dragging out the inevitable conclusion. Of course, I can’t deny that the chemistry between Chris Pine and his costar Thandiwe Newton. Without these two, this would have been a thoroughly forgettable drama. Instead, the two make up some ground on the unoriginal and fairly dull story. Not something that can be said for the fellow cast members Jonathan Pryce and Laurence Fishburne who get basically nothing to do.
The framing narrative of this film is a great one. Like My Dinner With Andre with a 24 kind of twist. It had the potential to be great but the tension is constantly being broken by the flashbacks. It’s a shame. The flashbacks themselves are just generic terrorist/spy stuff. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again. It’s also not the thing that really lets this film down. What absolutely lets it down is an unimaginative and obvious twist. Anyone who doesn’t immediately know what’s up has either never seen a spy film before or is just too trusting for this world.