Safe House has Denzel Washington return to the role everyone loves him for; that untouchable, bad ass, man of the hour kind of role that he's essentially played the majority of his career. Meanwhile, Ryan Reynolds sets out to try to prove he's capable of being more than a raunchy goofball. CIA agent Matt Weston (Reynolds) has anxiously been waiting to prove himself. He's been babysitting an empty safe house for twelve months and is eager to get out in the field. Matt gets his chance when Tobin Frost (Washington), ex-CIA agent, traitor to the organization, and currently one of the CIA's most wanted fugitives, is escorted there. But things are turned upside down when a group of unknown soldiers attack the safe house and take out the entire team who accompanied Frost. Now in over his head, Matt tries to cope with handling the situation on his own while Frost does his best to manipulate the rookie.
You'll probably notice the visual style of Safe House right away. It makes full use of that raw, gritty style. It's especially grainy at times as fluorescent lighting seems to jump off the screen. Judging by how the movie looks alone, you'd think Tony Scott directed it. But it's actually the English language debut of Swedish director Daniel Espinosa. So it just seems as though he patterned Safe House after Tony Scott's films. It doesn't take long for negotiations to get tense. Those moments in between the mayhem are when Safe House is at its best. It's like a game of tug of war between Frost's way of manipulating and Matt's attempt to stick to protocol while also juggling a relationship. Those moments of panic are explosive; especially the one at the safe house Matt was in charge of and the intense car chase immediately afterwards. Safe House has a way of getting really LOUD when you're totally expecting it. It usually involves a gunshot or six, but it's kind of the movie's way of telling you that some heavy stuff is about to go down.
The majority of the movie is basically Matt trying to prove himself as an agent all while absolutely everything that you could imagine to go wrong does. Safe House is actually pretty damn good for nearly half of the movie. Sure, Denzel is playing a character you've seen him play a few dozen times before but he does it so well and the audience obviously eats it up. So why wouldn't you give the paying viewer what they want to see? Ryan Reynolds makes the most of his performance though. He seems to be the most emotionally invested actor of the film meaning he shows the most emotion and has the most range. The movie kind of gets coiled up in itself with everything it has going for it in the last twenty minutes or so. It's like it couldn't handle the pressure of being a fairly strong action thriller or something. It becomes extremely excessive and it throws a ton of twists at you in this small amount of time. It's difficult to care about any of them when all of the characters feel so similar and you can pretty much see them coming a mile away. The movie follows this certain path that you may be expecting, but then it shifts direction before shifting again and shifting back again. Did you ever see the movie Basic with John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson? Safe House was reminiscent of the amount of twists in Basic.
Safe House begins as this white knuckled thriller with a fairly strong screenplay from first time screenwriter David Guggenheim. The action is heavy, the story reels you in, and the performances of both Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds are pretty superb. Everything eventually falls apart though as Safe House falls victim to stereotypical mediocrity. Brutal and intriguing at times and completely frustrating at others, Safe House is mostly exactly what you're expecting and the type of action thriller you've seen done several times before. It's basically a safe bet for success.
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