This article contains spoilers.
Most movies about plane hijacking are action-packed, such as “Air Force One” (1997), “Non-stop” (2014) and “United 93” (2006). “All the Old Knives” takes a calmer, more dramatic approach that leaves audience members feeling the suspense throughout the entire film.
The movie, which was released on Amazon Prime Video April 8, follows CIA agent Henry Pelham (Chris Pine) as he tries to find the mole in the CIA team that responded to a 2012 hijacking event. Henry is sent to interview Celia Harrison (Thandiwe Newton), his former lover and co-worker at the time of the attack. The film eases the viewer into the plot with flashback scenes as the pair recount the events of Flight 127 in an almost empty restaurant.
A slow-burn drama, the film shows constant flashbacks revealing details of the attack and the connection between Celia and Henry. Despite their deep relationship, both have troubled pasts that impact their ability to cope while learning information about the hijacking. Their connection and Henry’s complicated past is what ultimately contributes to the dramatic plot twist at the end of the film.
As they talk in the restaurant, Henry recounts his time working as an agent in Russia, during which he had a connection with an informant named Ilyas Shushani (Orli Shuka) who had later been radicalized. In an effort to protect Celia, Henry becomes the mole during the 2012 hijacking.
Eight years later, Celia reveals her knowledge of Henry’s actions as the mole and is visibly devastated when Henry reveals he did it for her protection. In a display of dramatic irony, the audience members are aware that each character entered the restaurant with a plan to kill each other while they are unsuspecting of the other’s schemes. Henry had hired a hitman and Celia worked with the CIA on an assasination plot. The realization of Henry’s good intentions hurt Celia, as she concluded that the CIA’s plot to poison Henry’s wine and make his death look like a suicide was irreversable. As Celia cries while leaving Henry suffocating at the restaurant, the audience is left with a display of Celia’s previous love for Henry. In his dying breaths, Henry is unable to talk with the hitman, so Celia is the only one to return home alive.
The plot twist at the end was wonderfully conducted, as the majority of the runtime is spent leading audiences to be cautious of others. The twist of Henry being the mole was a big shock, but the biggest surprise was Celia’s cooperation with the CIA after she seemed to have left the agency. The multiple twists at the end were phenomenal, as they not only created more dimensionality within the characters but also because they were heart-wrenching. This couple that had so much history together had fallen apart, and when there was a glimmer of hope for their future once Henry explained his actions, it crumbled altogether when Celia confessed the wine was poisoned.
Although the movie was an intentional slow burn, it did at times feel a bit too gradual of a build up. Some scenes appeared unnecessary and even went slightly unresolved. For example, there were so many questions remaining around the character of Bill Compton (Jonathan Pryce), Celia’s boss during the 2012 attack who had been loosely framed as the mole by Harry. However, his significance goes unanswered and the plotlines seem redundant.
One particularly exciting aspect of the film was the limited main cast. The cast gave amazing performances that displayed the intensity of their desperation both in the scenes from 2012 and 2020. Newton offered a wide range of emotions, such as admiration, fear, disgust and curiosity, as she faced the horrors of her work and Henry’s betrayal. Vick Wallinger (Laurence Fishburne), the CIA task force leader, embodied false trustworthiness by tasking Henry with finding the mole, despite knowing that Henry was responsible for the information leak.
While the entire cast was phenomenal, one of the most impressive performances was Pine. His intensity throughout the movie was truly convincing. Henry’s determination and commitment to finding the mole created the need to second-guess the motivations of every other character. Even after it is revealed that he was in fact the mole, Pine was able to shift his performance drastically back to convey that Henry’s main concern was Celia’s safety. Even in his dying breaths, Pine portrays a form of Henry so consumed by love that even if he could have spoken, it is unclear if he would have been able to command her death.
In addition to the excellent acting, this film was also visually gorgeous. It had three main settings: the chaotic and bustling CIA office, the dark and intense interviews surrounding the hijacking and the warm-toned restaurant. The contrast between Henry and Celia’s loving connection in the past and their intense conversation in the present exemplifies how much time had passed and the ways in which their lives had matured since 2012. Most noticeably, the warmer tones in the restaurant demonstrate a closeness and love that Henry had for Celia, compared to the cold-tone colors in the scenes when he interviewed informants. The minimal variation in settings was a beautiful choice that reflected both the characters’ connections and development.
I do not often find a drama film that truly leaves me surprised, but “All the Old Knives” not only left me guessing until the end but also had a heart-wrenching conclusion. With amazing character connections and plot development, “All the Old Knives” is a movie I recommend to anyone looking for a dramatically intense movie with a phenomenal ending.