Flix at :48: 'All the Old Knives' is a spy thriller without the thrill
Danish director Janus Metz (Borg vs. McEnroe, 2017) exercises impressively ample restraint in the new film All the Old Knives starring Chris Pine (Wonder Woman 1984, 2020) and Thandiwe Newton (Reminiscence, 2021) looking melancholy, sexy and secretive. Eight years after a plane hijacked by terrorists ended in tragedy, a CIA agent reunites with some old co-workers to re-examine this failed mission and uncover who might have betrayed them.
This film is adapted from the 2015 book by American spy novelist Olen Steinhauer who also wrote the screenplay. The dialogue has intrigue, conflict and some banality with the narrative nimbly jumping forward and backward in time as each conversation reveals a bit more of each character's backgrounds and motivations. All the Old Knives is tonally similar to other dialogue-heavy mysteries Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), Bridge of Spies (2015), and even Sleuth (1972). If this film were categorized, it would be an espionage thriller ... although "thrilling" is not an appropriate adjective for this film at all. You see no gun fights, car chases or even accelerated arguments on the complexities of international diplomacy.
Being so cerebral, patient and moody, All the Old Knives successfully maintains a placid internal interest that occasionally reaches moments of exciting tension. But that's all it offers. Both leading stars provide casual nudity which helps bolster the sex appeal of the film, but it's sadly just not dynamic enough to be memorable for viewers.
Recently we've seen a number of new films proudly devoted to boring portrayals of masculinity in their most predictable and stereotypical forms. These titles include Uncharted, Morbius, The Contractor and Ambulance (all of which are unsuccessful). So at least All the Old Knives tries to offer a portrayal of masculinity that's more intelligent and thoughtful.