All The Old Knives Movie Explained: Ending & Themes Analyzed
All The Old Knives (2022) Movie Ending Explained & Themes Analysed: Lean and sleek, though too expository at times, Amazon Prime’s latest thriller offering, ‘All The Old Knives’ fits the bill in all categories for a ‘weekend watch’. It stars Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne, and Jonathan Pryce. It is based on Olen Steinhauer’s 2015 novel of the same name and is directed by Janus Metz Pedersen, who previously directed ‘Armadillo’ and an episode from the criminally misjudged second season of ‘True Detective’.
All The Old Knives Movie Synopsis & Summary:
Told in a non-linear fashion, the plot essentially has two timelines. In the present day, Henry Pelham (Chris Pine), a CIA agent goes to meet his ex-colleagues, Bill Compton (Jonathan Pryce) and Celia Harrison (Thandiwe Newton), the latter an old flame, in order to gather information about the hijacking of Turkish Airlines Flight 127 from eight years ago. The actions surrounding the CIA office in Vienna dealing with the hijacking and trying to find a solution on the day, eight years prior to the present day, forms the other timeline of the film. All rescue efforts on the CIA, Austrian and German forces’ part failed and the hijacking ended with the terrorists having released sarin gas in the plane, which killed all passengers, crew, and the terrorists themselves. In the wake of this tragedy, Henry and Celia suddenly broke up, whose reason he could never fathom.
In the present day, Henry and Celia meet in a peculiarly empty restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea in California, where Celia now resides with her husband and two kids. The case is reopened because the main suspect in the hijacking of Flight 127, Ilyas Shushani (Orli Shuka), was recently caught and before dying, revealed that there was a mole in the Vienna team during the hijacking. The CIA cannot risk the information going public while the Austrians are still eager to deal with the cause behind their tragedy so Henry is sent by his boss, Vick Wallinger (Laurence Fishburne), to eliminate whichever member of the team did it, and keep the whole affair quiet. His interrogation of her takes us through the events leading up to the hijacking and then them scrambling to rescue the crew and passengers from the terrorists. The two timelines also intermingle Henry’s meeting with Bill Compton in London, two weeks prior to the present day.
All The Old Knives Movie Themes Explained:
As an espionage thriller, the element of trust is congenital to the narrative. The case is reopened because the main suspect in the hijacking of Flight 127, Ilyas Shushani, was recently caught and before dying, revealed that there was a mole in the Vienna team during the hijacking. This instantly spikes suspicion about the members of the Vienna team whose work we follow, planting doubt in us from the get-go about who to trust. Henry and Celia’s abrupt break-up too arouses suspicion in the audience about what might have happened for such a seemingly strong relationship to have fizzled with such rapidity. In the end, when Henry’s betrayal is revealed, we are made to realize that Celia’s own trust in him was broken by his unforeseen betrayal, causing her to leave.
Ilyas, a Chechen, was once an informant for Henry when the latter was posted in Moscow. Ilyas was a normal working-class man with a family, without any connections to terrorists whatsoever, but he provided Henry with eyes and ears in the Chechen community. In the wake of the Dubrovka Theater crisis, Henry was reluctantly made to give up llyas as a scapegoat to the Russians, what with him being a Chechen and the perpetrators of the crisis having been Chechen terrorists. This instantly shatters the trust between the two and Ilyas’s experiences as a prisoner eventually radicalize him. With him being the mastermind of the hijacking of Flight 127, the entire tragedy boils down to a breakdown of trust between two individuals.
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The individual and the State:
The two individuals most prominently affected by the larger actions of international affairs are Henry and Ilyas. For Henry, being a clandestine officer in Moscow during the Dubrovka Theater Hostage Crisis was a scarring experience in itself. Yet being forced to give up Ilyas by his superiors, to simply pacify the Russian government, was a deeply disconcerting incident, all the more so as agents do not give up their sources. In his personal life, he lost the woman he loved over actions which at the time and to the very end, vague as they are, seem intricately related to the tragedy of Flight 127 to him. Owen Lassiter (David Dawson), the analyst in the Vienna team, killed himself two months after the incident being unable to deal with the trauma of what happened while no member was left emotionally and psychologically unscathed by this.
Ilyas, because of Henry’s betrayal, is taken away by the Russian secret service, beaten to a pulp in front of his family and then tortured for six months as a suspected terrorist, all because he is a Chechen, as were the terrorists who attacked the Dubrovka Theater. When he is released, he escapes to Iran with his family but his daughter, just six years old, dies from an illness as the medicines she needs are unavailable in that country because of American sanctions on Iran’s trade. He then goes on to join a renegade faction of a larger terrorist organization. A simple, family man hence becomes a victim of international intrigue, losing everything important to him, through no fault of his own except having only marginally helped an American agent, highlighting how asymmetrical the relationship between individuals and States is and how so often, enemies of the State are created by the State itself.
All The Old Knives Movie Ending Explained:
Throughout the film, a call from Bill’s number to an Iranian phone on the day comes up as the locus of the suspicion existing amongst the members of the Vienna team in the present day. When Celia sees Henry getting a call from that number, she realizes and subsequently becomes the first person to discover that he is the mole. It is revealed then that when Henry and Celia simultaneously left the office to meet their sources, Henry was actually invited to meet Ilyas where he discovered that Ilyas was the mastermind behind the plan. After telling Henry what happened to him after his betrayal, Henry learns that the informer Celia is meeting at that moment is Ilyas’s man and unless he gives Ilyas some crucial bit of information about how the CIA is planning to rescue the hostages, Ilyas will ask his man to kill Celia. With his back against the wall owing to his love for Celia, he tells Ilyas that the CIA has an agent aboard the flight and that they’re planning to send an attack through the unguarded undercarriage. Celia was spared but in that moment, their cause was lost, desperate as Henry might have been for an intervention nonetheless.
As Henry reveals this to Celia, she reveals that his glass is poisoned and that his defection was actually revealed by Ilyas when he was recently caught and killed. Their meeting was meant to be confirmation of his treason. When Celia got a phone call from Bill alerting her about Henry’s interrogation, she decided to contact Karl Stein (Corey Johnson), an Austrian agent who had contacted her about Flight 127 in the past, to inform him about Henry’s treachery, at the time unaware of the reasons behind it and doing it to avoid putting her family in peril after having kept that secret for so long. Karl set up the meeting place as well as the decoy pair of guests and waiters, one of whom put the poison in Henry’s glass. Karl and Vick had been working together to eliminate Henry and Henry’s interrogation of Celia had really been her taking his interview all along. The fact that Henry did what he did to protect her breaks her heart as in that moment, she cannot help him and so he leaves him to die. Henry’s contact at the restaurant, Treble (Michael Shaeffer), follows Celia, asking for confirmation from him to kill her but Henry, incoherent at that point, cannot give a straight answer so she’s spared and she returns to her family.
All the Old Knives is now streaming on Prime Video
All The Old Knives (2022) Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
All The Old Knives (2022) Cast – Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Goksin Erdemli, Laurence Fishburne, Jonathan Pryce