Henry ( Chris Pine ) and Celia ( Tandiwe Newton ) are CIA agents and lovers who worked together at headquarters in Vienna. Their passionate romance came to an end after the terrorists hijacked a plane with passengers: everyone on board died, the rescue mission failed, and the operatives never recovered. Eight years later, Henry arrives at the office at the request of his boss ( Laurence Fishburne ) and learns that a mole was among them that fateful day. The hero needs to find a traitor, which may be his former lover, now living in sunny California with her husband and children.
Spy cover notwithstanding, most of the Janus Metz painting takes place not in the headquarters of secret agents or in a plane hijacked by extremists, but in an immaculate wine restaurant in a postcard town called Carmel. If you have seen Big Little Lies, you have a clear idea of the paradise district of Monterey: the sound of the sea comes through the windows of the institution, and the warm light from the setting sun floods the entire space. Former lovers drink expensive wine and taste gourmet dishes, carefully entering into a scrupulous dialogue. The viewer does not know until the last minute which of these two is a liar, and the director, taking this opportunity, throws us back eight years to show everything that happened to Henry and Celia on the day of the terrorist attack.
The story was not without the well-known clichés about the intricate machinations of the secret services, which is why at times there is an acute touch of some kind of “Bond” and the usual influence of traditional tapes of the genre. Even the decision to cast Chris Pine in the lead role seems a little predictable – the actor already has, after all, the role of a CIA agent in the spy rom-com Means War . All these details weigh down the plot, prevent the film from revealing its potential and going beyond the concept of “old school”. After all, apparently, the authors are not really interested in dynamic action. Rather than skirmishes, they prefer slow narration and intense conversation, through which old feelings and deeply buried secrets get out.
Content and plot
Old Knives is directed by Janus Metz and written by Olen Steinhauer (who is also the author of the book on which the film is based). It begins with the hijacking of Flight 127 in 2012 by terrorists and a CIA team in Vienna trying to sort out the situation. The crew includes Henry Pelham, Celia Harrison, Vic Wallinger, Bill Compton, Ernst Poole, Leila Maloof and Owen Lassiter, none of whom were able to catch the terrorists or save any of the passengers on board. On top of that, their failure resulted in the death of an informant who had been giving the CIA valuable information about the hijacking.
Eight years later, the case reopens with the capture of the mastermind of the attack, Ilyas Shushani, who reveals that a CIA mole leaked information to the terrorists, leading to the fiasco. Vic calls Henry to review the case and interview/interrogate Bill Compton and Celia Harrison because the calls that went from Vienna to Iran came from their phones. Henry visits Bill and then focuses on Celia after Vic essentially tells Henry to kill Celia for her apparent betrayal. Henry visits Celia at a restaurant of her choice, and in a lengthy conversation, the whole truth comes to the surface, leaving Henry, Celia, and the audience on the floor.
Why is Vic Wallinger sending Henry Pelham after Celia Harrison?
The reason that was originally given to us is that Langley officially opened the Flight 127 case and learned of Bill and Celia’s apparent involvement in the hostage debacle and the death of their informant. So, Vic wants Henry to stalk them because Vic knows about Henry’s closeness with Bill and Celia (especially Celia due to their romantic past). And we’re forced to assume that Vic believes Henry is the only person who can get close enough to the duo without raising any red flags and help the CIA get confirmation of their involvement in the 2012 incident.
But the truth is quite different. Vic sends Henry to go after Celia because Celia is the only person who can get confirmation of Henry’s involvement in Flight 127 without raising any red flags. It’s not very clear, but Henry is after Bill himself because he’s the man Henry put in as a scapegoat in case the CIA did an investigation. However, it is obvious that Vic is deceiving Henry into thinking that he is going to an interview with Celia because the opposite is true. Why doesn’t Vic kill him directly and make it look like suicide (as it eventually does)? For loud recognition and to make things a little edgy.
Was Bill Compton guilty of betraying the CIA?
No, obviously not. Henry framed Bill because Bill’s phone was available to Henry, and Bill’s irregular exits from the office due to his wife’s illness may have been framed as an excuse Bill used to make contact with terrorists or those assisting said terrorists. Henry wanted Bill to be a fall guy and Henry pushes all his buttons in the pub to try and get him to say something that would allow Henry to blame Bill. But since Bill sticks to his truth, he’s free. That is why he is able to warn Celia that Henry is looking for a mole in the CIA. And now that Henry is done with Bill, he’s coming for Celia, because she’s one of only two people who has access to Bill’s phone in Vienna, and one of two people who called Iran.
Why did Ilyas Shushani orchestrate the hijacking of Flight 127?
At first glance, the hijacking looked like a formulaic Islamophobic depiction of a terrorist killing innocent people in the name of Allah. But the existence of several levels of this hostage situation was hinted at by Henry’s backstory. During one of the first missions, Henry was assigned to investigate a case in Moscow, where he contacted Ilyas in the hope of obtaining information about an impending terrorist attack. Heinrich not only won Ilyas’ trust, but also became close to Ilyas’ family. When there was a terrorist attack and people died (which Ilyas had nothing to do with), the CIA asked Henry to extradite Ilyas to the Russians so that the CIA would not look like an idiot. The CIA even went ahead with it despite Henry’s disapproval, resulting in Ilyas being removed from his family.
It was then explicitly stated that Henry was one of the reasons Ilyas chose to commit the Vienna hijacking. This is not just a coincidence. When Ilyas was taken away, the Russians severely beat him. When Ilyas fled to Iran with his family, he was unable to treat his sick daughter due to US sanctions against the country, which led to the death of Ilyas’ daughter. None of this would have happened if the CIA had not handed over Ilyas to the Russians. None of this would have happened if Henry had not treated Ilyas as his contact. None of this would have happened if people accused of war crimes had been punished, not their victims.
So yes, the hijacking was Ilyas’ way of taking indirect revenge on those who had caused the death of his family. At the same time, it was Ilyas’ way of making Henry feel the fear of losing a loved one. Ilyas used hostages to take Henry and Celia (because Ilyas knows of Henry’s love for Celia) away from each other and corner them. And then Ilyas threatened to kill Celia if Heinrich did not provide information about the action plans of the Americans and Austrians. Because Henry chose Celia over the CIA informant and the lives of the hostages, Ilyas forced Henry to live with the blood of hundreds of people on his hands. Henry suffered from Ilyas’ anger towards the US and Russia, like the millions of terrorists around the world, who ended up as collateral damage due to bad national and international politics.
Was Henry Pelham going to frame or kill Celia Harrison?
Not at all. Henry bluntly stated that everything he did was a ploy to save Celia. He calculated the fact that if the CIA traced the Vienna team’s moves, they would focus on Bill because Henry had made a call from Iran on his phone. He didn’t expect Celia to take the number from Bill’s phone and call. He didn’t foresee that Celia would go down the notorious rabbit hole, right into Ilyas’ trap, and be used by Ilyas to threaten Henry. Thanks to clever editing, we are made to think that Celia feigned her emotions in order to strategically get out of the Vienna building and contact the terrorists. But that was not the case at all. In fact, Henry said out loud that he was not in the restaurant to kill or arrest Celia. He said he wanted to do this interview because he was asked to. Then he was going to make a bloated interview report and send it to the CIA in a different way and without their knowledge. The real reason Henry agreed to be interviewed at all was because he wanted to close the issue of Celia’s abrupt departure from their passionate relationship.
Old Knives Ending Explained: Why Did Celia Harrison Kill Henry Pelham? What will end?
The reason why Celia ended the relationship was a call from an Iranian number to Henry’s phone. She assumed that Henry was connected to the terrorists and caused the death of the CIA informant and the passengers of Flight 127. That’s why she ran as far away from Henry as she could. She got married, had a baby and lived without stress. Until the case was reopened and the CIA established Henry’s involvement in the case. Bill warned Celia that Henry was after them both. Because she was afraid that Henry was going to take her away from her family, or her family from her, she agreed to cooperate with a CIA operation led by Carl (Corey Johnson) to take down Henry. She didn’t know anything about Henry’s efforts to save Celia from being killed by Ilyas’s men, or that he staged all these diversions to keep the CIA from touching her. “All Old Knives” ends on a decidedly positive note as Celia returns to her family. But come to think of it, Celia has to live her life with the knowledge that she unknowingly killed her savior by trusting the most manipulative organization in the world, which is the CIA.