Chris Pine & Thandiwe Newton in spy drama – The Hollywood Reporter

What begins with the promise of a modern version of Three Days of the Condortype territory, with an American intelligence agency looking for a scapegoat to erase an international shame, ends up locking himself in a compartment of two characters and a single stage that could almost be a play in all the old knives. Despite the static nature of much of the action, the classy leads and the European sophistication of Danish filmmaker Janus Metz’s elegant direction make this adaptation of spy novelist Olen Steinhauer’s 2015 book of the same name compelling enough. compelling enough to find a streaming audience on Amazon, where it debuts. April 8.

The main draw is Chris Pine, who comes of age like a tailored suit, and Thandiwe Newton, who sports her character’s poise and cool appraisal of intelligence with a similar flair. They play former lovers reunited in an awkward reunion eight years after a deadly kidnapping that occurred under their supervision when they were agents at the CIA’s Vienna office.

all the old knives

The bottom line

Spy against spy, during dinner.

Release date: Friday, April 8
To emit: Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne, Jonathan Pryce
director: Janus Metz
Screenwriter: Olen Steinhauer, adapted from his novel

Rated R, 1 hour 42 minutes

The high-tension opening briefly recaps the events of that day in 2012 as field agent Henry Pelham (Pine) races through the Austrian capital questioning sources as the clock ticks for more than 100 passengers aboard a commercial flight taken over by terrorists. . At the CIA office headed by station chief Victor Wallinger (Laurence Fishburne), Celia Harrison (Newton) seems especially distraught when news arrives that everyone on board is dead, including one of her agents.

Henry believes they have revisited all the frustrating aspects of the failed rescue attempt in the years since. But the capture of Chechen extremist Ilyas Shushani (Orli Shuka) and his revelation during interrogation that he had the help of a mole inside the CIA office in Vienna prompts Wallinger to reopen the case. That means sending Henry to interview not only former colleagues like cautious former Deputy Station Chief Bill Compton (Jonathan Pryce), now retired in London, but also Celia, who was his mistress at the time of the kidnapping.

Like Compton, Celia has long since resigned from the agency and lives a comfortable life in Northern California with a husband and two children. She agrees to meet for lunch at a fancy restaurant on the Carmel coast, where Steinhauer’s adaptation stays throughout, nimbly regressing to various points in the past, pertaining both to the investigation and to her gripping personal story.

Audiences accustomed to the dizzying pace of, say, the Bourne the movies may find Metz’s more methodically inquiring approach too measured, even quiet. But the narrative proceeds with a constant buzz, keeping the intrigue going as the different pieces of the puzzle come together. The reopened investigation also provides a compelling license for both Henry and Celia to recapitulate events without falling into the narrative trap of characters regurgitating known information strictly for the benefit of the audience.

Pine and Newton excel in revealing the extent to which both Henry and Celia, beneath their carefully guarded facades, are haunted by the past and how abruptly the kidnapping derailed their burgeoning relationship. Their respective backgrounds add shade to the character portraits, as does the pain each carries with them from the poor decisions of that day and the heavy weight of their casualties. The lingering sparks of romantic connection between them further complicate those feelings.

Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s elegant camerawork captures the key encounter and the painful memories it stirs with a somber gaze that suits the wintry atmosphere, letting the plot do the work of building tension and modulating suspense. And Jon Ekstrand and Rebekka Karijord’s wistful score effectively shifts to atonal sawing strings as unsettling truths emerge in a twist that arrives in the last half hour, dramatically raising the stakes and shifting perspective on everything we’ve learned up to that point. moment. .

The film’s prevailing solemnity ultimately makes its bits of paranoia and revelations about counter-terrorist operatives’ engagements all the more disturbing, and the brutal finality of its outcome all the more chilling.

Metz, whose documentary experience informed his first feature film, Borg vs. McEnroea satisfying sports biodrama overshadowed at the time by another tennis movie, battle of the sexes — is less interested in the conventional mechanics of the world-spanning espionage thriller than in the intimate psychological details. Which ultimately makes this a character study about the kind of people drawn to the intelligence agency business, the qualities required of them to pursue that career, and the ways the job shapes their lives. identities.

Pine is excellent, appearing to age over the course of the meal, becoming visibly haggard as his options narrow, while Newton superbly balances professional detachment with underlying emotional debris. Henry and Celia’s careful negotiations, shot by Christensen in close-ups with changing lights as the night progresses, are something of a game of cat and mouse, but one in which both fear they have the upper hand. That makes the dark conclusion all the more poignant.

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