Janus Metz’s “All the Old Knives” observes two former lovers who reunite after being separated for eight years and who, over the course of a protracted afternoon and night in a flowery restaurant, reminisce in regards to the time they spent collectively in Vienna. Lest you suppose the ensuing movie goes to be some form of hybrid of “My Dinner with Andre” and “Before Sunrise,” it must be famous that the time period beneath dialogue occurred when each had been working for the CIA, and there is the distinct likelihood one in all them might have been a mole whose actions led to mass casualties. It is an intriguing concept for a movie, I suppose, but it surely proves to be just about all set up with valuable little follow-through. Not even the nice performances from the 2 leads could make the entire thing work.
Eight years in the past, an airplane was hijacked in Vienna and the members of the CIA station there—together with brokers Henry Pelham (Chris Pine) and Celia Harrison (Thandiwe Newton) and superiors Vick Wallinger (Laurence Fishburne) and Invoice Compton (Jonathan Pryce)—pursued any and all potential results in the attempt to determine a strategy to defuse the scenario earlier than blood were shed. This failed and all 120 folks on board, terrorists and hostages alike, had been killed. Now, new info has come to mild suggesting there was a mole within the workplace who might have secretly offered info to the terrorists. Henry is charged with interviewing the surviving members of the group—one mysteriously dedicated suicide a few months after the incident—to see if he can ferret out which one is responsible.
This results in the reunion in a flowery restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea between the previous lovers. They haven’t seen one another since Celia took off in the wake of the tragedy, and after the requisite catching-up banter and maybe a touch of low-grade flirting, their dialogue turns to eight years earlier. The movie then makes use of parallel timelines, slicing between the present dialog between Henry and Celia and prolonged flashbacks displaying what they had been doing throughout the disaster. It quickly turns clear no less than one in all of them is aware of extra about what occurred than they’re letting on, and that the luxurious feast they’ve been consuming will almost certainly show to be the final meal for no less than one in all them.
As espionage narratives go, “All the Old Knives,” which is predicated on the novel by Olen Steinhauer (who additionally wrote the screenplay), is nearer to the extracerebral and reasonable creations of John le Carré than the comedian e-book fantasies of James Bond (underscored maybe a bit too bluntly at one level the place Henry makes an attempt to order a vodka martini and is rebuffed). The early set-up scenes are fairly intriguing however at a sure level, issues simply cease working. One key drawback is that the flashback construction by no means fairly works and finally ends up halting any dramatic stress virtually every time it goes forwards and backward in time. One other is that the large middle thriller proves to be not a lot of something—at a sure level, it turns into pretty apparent what the reply is and when all is lastly revealed, the revelation and subsequent clarification is considerable of a letdown.
This makes “All the Old Knives” considerably irritating, particularly when these meh materials are delivered by a gaggle of robust actors. Newton is, in fact, one in all as we speak extra commanding performers, and he or she invests Celia with sufficient willpower and vulnerability to make the character extra advanced than the fabric has managed. Likewise, Pine is sweet as Henry and, alongside along with his latest flip within the in any other case disappointing “The Contractor,” demonstrates a surprising sense of gravitas that means he has the soul of a personality actor burning inside him. And whereas their components do probably not add as much as a lot in the long term, outdated execs Fishburne and Pryce assist issues out momentarily by the energy of their distinct presences alone.
“All the Old Knives” isn’t far more than a movie whose narrative curlicues can’t fairly disguise simply how acquainted all of it is. With mid-sized motion pictures aimed primarily at adult-leaning audiences changing into more and more uncommon amidst the glut of franchise properties, I might have liked to have had a good time it as a throwback. Alas, it feels extra like one whose final future is to languish on Amazon for individuals who can’t discover something higher to observe.