Spy thrillers come and go. The genre is flexible enough to accommodate both the action packed flicks that make millions go to the cinema and also the quieter and more interesting ones that make you think and wonder what if you could be a real spy. One take on the genre is more successful than the other, businesswise, but either way, spy thrillers can always deliver amazing stories.
All The Old Knives, now available on Amazon Prime Video, is the latest of the spy thrillers that are trying to be intriguing and compelling instead of explosive and exciting. It wants to make you think instead of just being passive. However, the lack of a story that isn’t predictable makes the goals of the movie a lot harder than they should be.
All The Old Knives is directed by Janus Metz Pedersen and stars Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne, and Jonathan Pryce. The film tells the story of Henry and Celia, two CIA agents trying to investigate a kidnapping case while also dating each other. When the investigation fails, they are then brought back together years later.
All The Old Knives is very particular in the sense that it mixes both the spy thriller genre with something a lot more casual and less convoluted, as it is a romance story. In the beginning, the story tries to mix these two genres together, but it never really works. The movie feels, at many moments, like two different movies pieced together. It is weird. However, this schism in focus begins to be less intrusive as the movie goes on, and the spy factor begins to take dominance as the real story in the picture.
That doesn’t mean that the spy thriller parts of the movie are bad or anything like that; it is just that they begin to matter less and less when, at the beginning, they seemed so important. It would have been nice if the filmmakers could have mixed these two storylines a lot better and made the situation come across as more than just feelings.
The film is a slow burn, and it might have been cool if there could have been at least one big action sequence of some sort. Not every movie needs one, but when your slow-burn story is the only thing propelling the story forward, it can become rather dull at times. Sadly, more than one member of the audience will find the movie boring, and they might even end up sleeping through it.
Chris Pine is one of the best actors of his generation. He has the looks, the charm, and the acting chops to basically do anything he wants. Should he have a better career? Maybe so, but even in these smaller pictures, he manages to elevate the material and make the movie a lot more watchable. That is the “movie star factor,” and not many people have it. Throughout the movie, Pine moves as a Jack Ryan type figure, and it is quite interesting how he is capable of being both sincere and also sketchy.
Thandiwe Newton, on the other hand, is as beautiful as ever and she also brings a sense of gravitas that no other actress can match. Both the leads have amazing chemistry, and their interactions throughout the movie are quite varied and put them on display as actors always worth watching.
In terms of visuals, Pedersen doesn’t bring a lot to the table. He is trapped in the visual palette of his TV work, which is quite good, but it just isn’t cinematic enough. Because of this, it makes the movie feel like a movie designed from the get go as a streaming product. More and more movies tend to fall into this TV quality spectrum. It makes you wonder how movies are going to compete when there are so many incredible TV shows that just look so much better than more than half the movies out there.
The score hits all the right notes, but also falls short of anything memorable. If anything can be extracted from the movie, it is that it is quite steamy. The chemistry between the actors is palpable, and so when the story needs the characters to express that passion, things get heated up. All in good taste, for sure. This aspect might satisfy some audiences looking for a more serious take on the tragic romance. Tragic romances always stay with us at the end.
Despite its flaws, “All The Old Knives” is a worthwhile watch if you’re looking for some good old-fashioned spy antics and a healthy dose of romance. If not, spend your time elsewhere. The movie will definitely find its audience in streaming, as there is, of course, an audience for everything out there.