Author and screenwriter Olen Steinhauer’s movie adaptation of his novel, ALL THE OLD KNIVES, is out now on Amazon Prime. Does the film live up to Olen’s work and his previous film adapted spy thrillers? Here is my full review of the film.
When the CIA discovers one of its agents leaked information that cost more than 100 people their lives, veteran operative Henry Pelham (Chris Pine) is assigned to root out the mole from among his former officemates at the agency’s Vienna station. His investigation takes him from Austria to England to California, where he is reunited with his one-time colleague and ex-lover Celia Harrison (Thandiwe Newton). The pair are forced to blur the lines between profession and passion in this riveting tale of global espionage, moral ambiguity and deadly betrayal. Directed by acclaimed Danish director Janus Metz and written by Olen Steinhauer, the film also stars Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce.
Before we dive into the film’s plot I’d like to point out the amazing cinematic feel of the film. DP Charlotte Bruus Christensen elevates this spy thriller with superb cinematography throughout the film. The open beauty of the northern California coast is a real sparkling location for a majority of the film’s story. Christensen and Director Janus Metz ability to allow the scenic views to mask the suspense through the film really heightens the fear. A film more about the emotional turmoil of past actions and relationships isn’t your typical spy thriller. Instead Christensen and Metz grandest adventure is the various palates of London, Vienna, and North California.
Casting wise Pine and Newton are quite amazing together and the film would fall apart if their chemistry wasn’t spot on. Fishburne like the rest of the cast are merely distracting elements to keep the heightened suspense. Pryce’s Bill Compton character is a juicy role and his scenes with Pine hold the most obvious friction. Overall the inter workings of this CIA group is handled nicely by the team and the cast delivers authentic performances.
The film’s hijacking element and search for the behind-the-scene masterminds aren’t given enough screen time to either sympathize or despise them. The film loses a lot of the shock value by not emphasizing the reveal moments through the movie. There are so many blink and you’ll miss it moments that are huge rationales for the choices made by the characters. Our lead asset in the film Ilyas, played admirably by Orli Shuka, is a character grossly absent from the film. More scenes with Ilyas and Pine’s Henry Pelham and the film would hold so much more spy thriller presence.
Instead we have a tragic love story that is mixed in a spy espionage film rather than a volatile relationship stuck in a harrowing hijack thriller. The film’s slow pacing choices bogs down as you come to realize there is only a slight twist rather than a massive change of the story.
I feel like Christensen’s beautiful cinematography heighten this lackluster spy adventure. So yes check out the film, but no need to rush out for this one.
Directed by: Janus Metz
Written by: based on book by Olen Steinhauer who also wrote the screenplay
Selig Rating: 3.5 Stars
Running Time: 1h 41min
Out now on Amazon Prime and in select theaters.
Starring: Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.