All the Old Knives Loses Some Of Its Suspense With Lots of Flashbacks

All the Old Knives film review
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Who’s the Mole?

“All the Old Knives” is a new Amazon Studios film directed by Janus Metz. It is based on the best-selling espionage thriller by writer Olen Steinhauer, who also wrote the screenplay. The film stars Chris Pine as Henry Pelham, a longtime CIA operative charged with finding the mole who aided a terrorist takeover of an Austrian flight resulting in hundreds of deaths.

Instructed by his Vienna CIA Chief (Laurence Fishburne) to interrogate former colleagues eight years later, and dispense immediate retribution if he finds the mole, Henry travels to London to interview retired operative Bill Compton (Jonathan Pryce). He then flies to Carmel CA to meet Celia (Thandiwe Newton), his former lover and colleague who’s now happily married. Celia is a person of interest since she left the service immediately after the attack.

The film’s action starts explosively, with the sickening sight of a plane filled with passengers, including a number of terrified children, recoiling in horror as a terrorist shoots and kills their flight attendant before takeoff. With such a horrific beginning, the film slowly turns into a cat and mouse game between a few talking heads. Most of the action is primarily seen through flashbacks when Henry and Celia meet. The two former lovers—who obviously still have an emotional connection–talk for hours as they attempt to unravel the mole’s identity.

All the Old Knives-Too Many Flashbacks?

Because the events happen out of sequence, the film isn’t as suspenseful as it might have been. The events that transpired eight years ago are kept at such a remote distance from what’s happening onscreen that some viewers (myself included) lose interest along the way. Both leading actors are good in their roles. However, just watching them chat through lunch and then dinner at a fancy wine bar and restaurant can become a wee bit boring.

I will admit, however, that the identity of the mole, when eventually revealed, was a surprise to this viewer. Or maybe I dozed off?

“All the Old Knives” opens in local theatres April 8, and also starts streaming on Amazon at the same time. The film is rated R. (for sexual encounters seen in flashback sequences and violence when the terrorists take over the airplane). The film is distributed by Amazon Studios and runs1 hour and 41 minutes.