Tag Archives: Lawrence Fishburne

REVIEW: “ALL THE OLD KNIVES”

“All the Old Knives” is a romantic spy thriller directed by Janus Metz, based on the book by Olen Steinhausen about romantically involved CIA agents looking back at a mission that went wrong in a big way.

The story is set eight years after the 2012 hijacking of Royal Jordanian Flight 127 and the CIA’s mishandling of it, leading to the deaths of the passengers, the terrorists, and an agent who was onboard. The Vienna-based investigating team, made up of Henry Pelham (Chris Pine), Celia Harrison (Thandiwe Newton), Bill Compton (Jonathan Pryce), Ernst Pul (Jonjo O’Neill), Leila Maloof (Ahd), Owen Lassiter (David Dawson), and their supervisor Vick Wallinger (Laurence Fishburne), are initially clueless. Believing the terrorists had inside help, and only after the capture of the “mastermind” of the terrorist attack, Ilyas Shushani (Orli Shuka), is Henry is sent to interrogate now former agent Celia, with whom he suspects provided information to the hijackers. The story is them rehashing not only the entire day of the attack, but their relationship at the time as well which is when they (and we) realize that the truth is far more twisted than anyone initially thought.

ALL THE OLD KNIVES

One would almost think this would be an action filled, Bond-esque type thriller, but this isn’t that in the slightest. All the Old Knives keeps the suspense going through the conversation and keeps you wondering what happened, who did it – and why. There’s a deliberate omission of details to keep you guessing along about what’s coming next. Conversations that happened in the past are run in together with parallel conversations of the present to help accentuate the impact of certain revelations. Pay attention as well, to the visual clues being dropped, as they all take you down the traveled path of the story at hand with seemingly at every moment a twist is thrown in. We watch as the room gets smaller and smaller, making it almost impossible for the answer to escape as well as asking the bigger question – when it all comes down to it in the end, who do you trust?

ALL THE OLD KNIVES

While the scenery is a beautiful backdrop in the entire film, most especially the restaurant scene where the story unfolds, the film is held together by it’s two leads Pine and Newton. They are the glue that keep it pasted together, though at times to be fair, barely so as sometimes they seem to work with their characters chemistry, and other times they just seem to be working their characters. As well, with a supporting cast that includes Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce playing characters that are certainly within their element, Henry’s interrogation of Bill in a London pub, is devoid of any dramatic heft. Pryce, for his part, makes a spirited effort to give these scenes some depth, but the material just isn’t there. Fishburne barely plays a factor as he might have five minutes worth of screen time, which befuddles the mind as why wouldn’t you want to use someone of Fishburne’s caliber throughout the film to elevate it more. The other supporting actors are all given the briefest of moments, even when it’s revealed that Lassiter, David Dawson’s character, committed suicide over the whole fiasco.

So with struggles to streamline the story and stumbles a bit with it’s own chronology that’s likely better in the book, though it still carves out a decent enough spy-game intrigue.

Grade: C

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Review Screening: Friday April 1, 2022 ~Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR and Amazon Prime

Amazon Studios will release ALL THE OLD KNIVES in select theaters and globally on Prime Video on April 8, 2022.

REVIEW: “WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE” (2019) Annapurna Pictures

Imagine my surprise sitting five minutes into this movie and realizing it all seems so familiar somehow.  Unfortunately that is the fate of being an avid reader as well as film goer, I realized I’d read Maria Semple’s wonderful 2012 novel “WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE” (no ? mark by the way) maybe a year or more ago.  And the bad thing about doing so, is it takes you into that dreaded  “spoiler alert” zone which we all try to avoid.

As director Richard Linklater has nabbed this one up and added Cate Blanchett in the lead role of Bernadette Fox, Billy Crudup as her husband Elgin, and rounding out the lead family roles with newcomer Emma Nelson as their daughter Bee.  He takes this rather dark comic tale of a highly creative, yet completely unhappy woman, who’s suppressed her creative talent for a few decades and finally seems to rediscover it through an unlikely journey.  The book is also, as the title suggests, a mystery, though the film seems to leave this portion by the wayside.  The story told comes mostly from two viewpoints. The first part which let’s us get to know the character we are dealing with, comes from Bernadette herself in emails to ‘Mangula’ her India based ‘virtual assistant’ and really have her coming off like a rich woman, who does nothing but bitch and moan about the other women in the picture, neighbor Audrey (Kristen Wiig) and Soo Lin (Zoe Chao). All this whilst living in a decaying mansion meant to have be re-done for years, and did we mention the loads of wealth thanks to husband Elgin having accrued it as a tech titan.

The other half is mostly woven together by Bee, who’s become the sole focus in her mother’s stuck in neutral life. It soon becomes clear that Bee’s also the only person in Bernadette’s orbit who truly understands and accepts her and her ridiculous bad behaviour towards pretty much anyone within shouting distance.  The endless seams being put together here a lot of Bernadette’s misery, the odd way she defects from the community she lives in as they shun her. Yet even though she practically destroys neighbor Audrey’s house, oddly she is also the one to help her escape from the realities she can no longer face and helps her embark on a new journey of adventure and discovery.

Linklater’s undertaking of this book was maybe as task he wasn’t quite up for as while he does great by casting Blanchette who relishes this type of character and can play this persona in her sleep, but he also misses some very pertinent portions of the book that makes the film seem almost uneven.  It’s like he left the best parts of the book on the cutting room floor. Wiig is wonderful as well, and some cameos by Lawrence Fishburne, Megan Mullally, and Steve Zahn are fun, and newcomer Nelson does well on her first go round her being in such stellar company, she definitely holds her own.   While the cinematography is wonderful once they get into the Antarctica portion of the film – it’s almost piecemealed together with what the purpose is of her leaving, what she is trying to do out there, how she gets there, how her husband and daughter try to find her is just given to you here, and it’s lines are not well connected, whereas as the book makes you really understand and feel the panic of not knowing where her mother is or why. Again, major plot portions are skimmed over when they are integral to the story.  Linklater just took to long to help us understand the complexity of Bernadette and her real struggles in skips and starts rather than with the flow that was needed.

While the film has it’s quirky, funny moments, I feel like a lot of this was a swing and a miss for Linklater who is always trying to challenge himself. There are things to appreciate, like the musical score and performances but not a whole lot else in this rather uneventful and non memorable film.  In other words I’m telling you to read the book and do so after you’ve seen the film. It will make much more sense then.

Grade: C

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Film group.

“WHERE’D YA GO BERNADETTE” IS IN U.S. THEATERS NOW