Chris Pine’s career as Jack Ryan ended abruptly after one film, but much like George Lazenby and James Bond, that could make him the perfect man to play impersonations of other iconic heroes. In All old knives, Pine enters the film with perfect hair, an absurdly fashionable scarf, and a dead look, a look that’s more Derek Zoolander than Tom Clancy’s gruff, quick-thinking analyst. But director Janus Metz Pederson wastes little time with the blue steel of the spy world before tapping into the less superficial qualities brought by Pine Ryan and James Kirk, even if his role here feels more like a copycat of his better ones.
Most movies set in the “present” use their projected release date as the time frame. This is explicitly set in the 2020 production year, but also contains frequent flashbacks to 2012, which is indicated by prominent images of Barack Obama on the walls of the CIA offices. In this 2012 “reality”, a major Austrian plane hijacking ended in the deaths of everyone on board, and eight years later the case is being reopened. Pine’s Henry Pelham is tasked by director Vick Wallinger (Laurence Fishburne) with finding out why it wasn’t solved the first time.
While there’s a possibility of a mole, there’s a better chance that Henry’s former colleague and lover, Celia (Thandiwe Newton), or at least someone she knows, was the culprit. At a perfect golden hour dinner meeting in Carmel, a conversation between the two begins along with a series of flashbacks to find out what actually happened. Henry has a hitman stationed outside waiting to take out Celia if he doesn’t like what he hears, but Celia, despite her resignation, is smart enough to be prepared with her own support.
It seems fitting that Amazon first grew into a retail giant based on book sales and now as a studio releasing the cinematic equivalent of impulse buy airport thrillers. A decade or more ago, an adaptation of Olen Steinhauser’s novel All old knives could have easily rivaled big-screen versions of John Grisham and Scott Turow bestsellers, but audiences no longer want to pay $20 or more a ticket for them—at least not in theaters. Streaming services stepped in to fill the gap, along with companies like Potboiler Productions, whose name couldn’t be more appropriate for the development of movies like this.
In addition to their intellectual tete-a-tete, Pine and Newton also engage in a bedroom showdown, a welcome response to social media complaining about a lack of love scenes in contemporary films. Then again, the movie mostly takes place in 2020, so maybe it’s more of an act of nostalgia. Nonetheless, from his celebrity butt shots to Jonathan Pryce’s American accent, All old knives is compelling from moment to moment, but afterwards viewers may have some lingering questions about what the characters were trying to accomplish or why they were involved in the first place. Pine and Newton catch the public’s attention, but as CIA analysts, they both seem to miss details that would be important to their jobs — though, in fairness, one can easily be distracted by their mutual poignancy.
For better or worse, the film names both Islamic terrorists and (indirectly) Vladimir Putin as the bad guys of the world, and underscores the problems that arise when other world powers try to take sides. Nevertheless, All old knives provides enough clearinghouse for well-known villains (here come the Chechens!) that it probably feels more like a fun time-waster than a measured referendum on geopolitics. Critics who fret that the CIA is largely taken for granted may be right, but neither is this film likely to spark any deeper cultural debate than what to watch on a Friday night after mom and dad have thrown the kids in Brought to bed and poured a few glasses of wine. Not to mention that it’s clearly told from the CIA’s point of view, no matter which character the viewer ends up siding with.
While it’s unlikely Pine found a new franchise here, the actor’s ability to exude bravery and then undermine it with vulnerability makes him the perfect casting choice for more non-Jack Ryan projects like this one. Maybe he’ll make it next time consumables.
https://www.avclub.com/all-the-old-knives-review-chris-pine-thandiwe-newton-1848744495 A review of all old knives