Tuesday, 28 June 2022

‘All the Old Knives’ cerebral spy story; ‘Flatch’ on Fox


Amazon’s “All the Old Knives” is not the type of espionage thriller one has come to appreciate in the James Bond series. This is a cerebral affair akin to something that might have been written by John le Carre and then adapted to film like “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”

Expecting anyone to draw a gun resulting in a protracted shootout will not come to fruition. Notwithstanding the title, no one pulls a knife unless to carve a juicy tenderloin. Don’t recall that happening.

No explosions or extended car chases ensue. At one point, we see veteran CIA case officer Henry Pelham (Chris Pine) driving a spiffy convertible near the Big Sur area and it looks like he’s adhering to the speed limit.

Why is Henry driving the scenic route along the coast of Northern California? We’ll get to that soon enough, but first Henry is stationed in cold, wintry Vienna where he reports to CIA Chief of Station Victor Wallinger (Laurence Fishburne).

On a bleak morning in the capital of Austria, Chief Wallinger delivers some explosive news about an airline terrorist attack that remains unsolved from eight years ago.

A Chechen extremist by the name of Ilyas Shushani (Orli Shuka), apparently the mastermind behind a deadly hijacking that killed more than 120 airline passengers and crew, has been captured by the agency.

During interrogation, Shusani reveals that a mole in the Vienna station provided vital intelligence to the hijackers, resulting in the tragic loss of life. Faced with this new information, Henry is assigned to reopen the case of Flight 127 to find the traitorous double agent.

The mission means revisiting painful memories and laying traps for old friends, and even for a spy as adept at compartmentalizing his emotions as Henry is, that’s no easy task.

First stop on the cold trail is where Henry meets at a London pub his cagey former superior Bill Compton (Jonathan Pryce), who was second in command in Vienna during the terrorist attack on the airliner.

Long since retired from the agency, Bill considers the incident ancient history not to be dredged up, but Henry points out several disturbing inconsistencies in Bill’s story that suggest he knows far more than he’s letting on.

The path forward now leads Henry to Carmel-by-the-Sea to question another retired Vienna colleague, Celia Harrison (Thadiwe Newton). More than just ex-coworkers, Henry and Celia were once passionate lovers.

The relationship fell apart after the hijacking disaster. Celia is now married with children, but romantic sparks reignite when they meet at stylish cliffside restaurant.

Reminiscing about their bittersweet past over a meal gives way to a more intense situation as the conversation drifts into a sly cat-and-mouse game played by two experts.

Common to many spy thrillers, red herrings arise to tempt the viewer into identifying the culprit. In the end “All the Old Knives” is not that compelling but Pine and Newton have enough chemistry to make their seaside reunion worth watching.


Flatch, Ohio, a fictional small town with a population of 1,526, is the setting for the new FOX comedy “Welcome to Flatch,” a mockumentary that follows the daily routines of two cousins who are best friends.

The show has the same sort of style as series like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” and “Welcome to Flatch” takes a cue from the former by being based upon a British comedy series called “This Country.”

The cousins are twentysomethings trapped emotionally, it would appear, in their teen years as they navigate the stereotypical mundane life of a small town where the highlight of the year is the Scarecrow Festival.

Kelly Mallet (Holmes) and Lloyd “Shrub” Mallet (Sam Straley) are motivated, respectively, to win the skillet-tossing contest or taking the prize for the best scarecrow, and other kicks come from messing with the local bus driver.

Colorful town character Mandy “Big Mandy” Matthews (Krystal Smith) notes that Flatch has only two restaurants, one with menus, and observes that youth are the future while excluding Kelly and Shrub as “walking disappointments.”

One of the more recognizable cast members is Seann William Scott’s Father Joe, the local minister who ends up helping Kelly with her scheme to create a ride share business called “Kuber.”

Kelly is quite amusing telling Father Joe that she is “an idiot savant with business ideas” who comes from a “long line of business tycoons” because her father ran a Christmas tree farm and her grandmother operated a “successful black market cigarette ring in prison.”

Eccentric characters abound in Flatch. Nadine (Taylor Ortega) pitches the Flatch Historical Society’s efforts to preserve a historic outhouse and Aya Cash’s Cheryl gave up big city reporting to be the editor of the “Flatch Patriot” with a circulation in the hundreds.

Big Mandy tells the documentary crew that there’s no decent place to stay in Flatch. The TV viewer, of course, is only visiting, and “Welcome to Flatch” may be worth a look.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Upcoming Calendar

06.28.2022 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Board of Supervisors
06.28.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
06.28.2022 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
06.30.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
07.01.2022 5:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Essential workers mural dedication
07.02.2022 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Junior Ranger Program: Lake ecology
07.02.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.02.2022 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Weekly writing workshop
07.02.2022 11:00 am - 11:00 pm
64th annual Redbud Parade and Festival

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