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'All the Old Knives' Review: Lacklustre Chris Pine Spy Thriller

Still, this espionage mystery on Prime Video has one or two things going for it.

Chris Pine stars in All the Old Knives.
Prime Video

Any movie title using the word "knives" gives you half a flutter of hope it'll be related to Knives Out.

Sadly, no. All the Old Knives is not related to Knives Out, but it does feature a mystery. Albeit a lackluster mystery, executed in a self-serious, cumbersome fashion, with a colorless aesthetic doing it no favors.

Still, All the Old Knives involves a total of three twists. Three twists are better than no twists.


Thandiwe Newton and Chris Pine star.

Prime Video

The espionage thriller, with a very light emphasis on "thrill," is mainly set at a restaurant. Two people discuss what happened when Royal Jordanian Flight 127 was hijacked and all 120 passengers on board died.

Those two people are ex-CIA agents, played by Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton. They channel the ghosts of James Bond and Vesper Lynd, flirting and analyzing each other and attempting to order vodka martinis (plot twist: the bar only serves wine).

But then the movie invests in one of the most annoying plot mechanics of prestige TV shows: flashbacks. In order to unravel what went wrong on the plane, the ex-CIA agents talk to more ex-CIA agents about all the CIA agents they know until they've still only gathered a shallow perspective of the disastrous event that took place eight years earlier.


Jonathan Pryce in All the Old Knives.

Prime Video

If you're looking for a good old-fashioned espionage thriller, All the Old Knives ticks most of the boxes -- as long as those boxes don't include suspense or trench coats or general spycraft.

The main point of tension: A mole might have been operating in the CIA. Yet any stress and anxiety this could induce in the agents under interrogation is suppressed in the relaxed atmosphere of a fancy restaurant.

Jonathan Pryce seems weirdly miscast as a sweary ex-agent also accused of being a mole (his setting for chats about the past is a pub). Laurence Fishburne is the higher-up pulling the strings, who then disappears for most of the movie.

Pine and Newton are both excellent separately, but their chemistry as two ex-lovers comes a little forced. A scene involving one character feeding the other a strip of restaurant-quality bacon induces a twitch of cringe.

The dialogue doesn't help: An old agent can't believe he's being interrogated over his time as a hard-working spy. "The lies… the duplicity…" -- the unwieldy lines.

The many time jumps peel back the paper-thin layers of the characters, their backstories confined to that one particular point in and around Langley.

Based on a spy novel inspired by real events, All the Old Knives hints at more interesting depths to the tragedy that took place. Yet we spend a significant amount of time off-plane and even away from Langley, confined to the aforementioned restaurant setting. Delicate mood lighting, unobtrusive background music and modern stylings are probably not the ingredients to wind up pulse-racing tension.

All the Old Knives rustily crunches through its story of duplicitous spies covering up a terrorist attack. More romance than thriller (is now the time to mention the bare butt Chris Pine sex scene?), this blunt weapon is probably best left at the bottom of the drawer.

All the Old Knives hits Prime Video on Friday.