All the Old Knives from Janus Metz was a delightful surprise that despite a lack of flair was able to completely lure me in. Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton are the focus starring as CIA operatives and former lovers Henry and Celia. The two meet up at a posh coastal restaurant to re-examine the events of a mission gone wrong eight years prior. This results in a story with multiple timelines that do manage to weave together with a smooth forward progression to create an enjoyable amount of intrigue.
There is a lot of history between Hank and Celia both professionally and personally. Both of which are explored with a tight balance as the former lovers sit in the present day to recant the events of the past. The past relationship between them advances nicely to clue the viewer in to the full strength of their past love. This complements the actions of the old mission at the center of everything, which in turn fills in the backdrop for the current day cat-and-mouse conversation between Hank and Celia. So, despite a methodical pace, and on the outside not much appearing to happen. The mental game and all of its moving pieces are where the compelling cinema lies with All the Old Knives.
This certainly works because of the confident performances from Newton and Pine. Their chemistry and timing were natural. You can feel these characters have history, that they’ve known each other for many years, and the lived-in vibe from both actors sells the main thread of this movie effectively. Plotlines like these centered in the world of agency spies and missions gone wrong are often littered with action set-pieces to fuel the energy. This film uses that concept but instead focuses on the emotional connections of the characters and their human qualities to ignite all the intensity, and it works. It’s all subtle but more than effective to craft compelling cinema from an espionage themed love story.
Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce support Newton and Pine to fill out some rather bland characters. These genre players are usually plug-and-play characters but admittedly Pryce and Fishburne bring them a touch of superficial gravitas. The production design creates an inviting atmosphere to fit the mood of the plot and while this isn’t necessarily a film that relies on theatrics and gusto, it does thrive on its emotional core. With a satisfying closing that can leave you thinking after the end credits roll. So, if you enjoy films that take their time to lay out the pieces of the puzzle, All the Old Knives will sneak up and surprise you with its dramatic impact.
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2022 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.