Oscar winner Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds star in the action-thriller Safe
House. Washington plays the CIA's most dangerous traitor, who stuns the
intelligence community when he surfaces in South Africa. When the safe house
to which he's remanded is attacked by brutal mercenaries, a rookie (Reynolds) is
forced to help him escape. As the masterful manipulator toys with his reluctant
protege, the young operative finds his morality tested and idealism shaken. Now,
they must stay alive long enough to uncover who wants them dead.
Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is an ex-CIA operative who went rogue and has since been selling government secrets--he is a traitor. Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) currently works for the CIA managing a Safe House in Cape Town, South Africa--he has never had a "houseguest" in twelve months and spends his days throwing a ball against the wall. Things are about to change for Matt when Tobin walks into the U.S. Consulate in Cape Town in order to save his own life and is immediately brought into custody by agents. The next stop for Tobin is the safe house Matt manages; this is only the beginning of Tobin and Matt's time together as Tobin is a wanted man and those who want him dead are always one-step behind him, even in government custody. How the would-be assassins are able to find Tobin is the mystery to be solved, but any seasoned (or green) audience member who has seen an action-thriller of this type before will know right away who is trying to have Tobin killed, and anyone else that gets in their way. It may have something to do with the micro-chip of information he is carrying--hint, hint. The conspiracy Safe House's story is built around is commonplace and predictable.
Safe House is as generic an action-thriller you can find. Denzel Washington adds a touch of charisma with some sarcastic one-liners and a manipulative grin that gives way to the occasional giggle. Ryan Reynolds' comedic talents are all but forgotten, leaving him to be an overwhelmed rookie who is more keen on trying to keep his emotions in check than rise to action star heroism. The time ticks by in Safe House at the slowest of paces; making a viewer shuffle in their seat more than they would like and become distracted just as much. If not for the deluge of gunfire, the occasional car chase and explosions, and a good amount of blood being spilled Safe House would be the perfect movie to put you to asleep.
The action-thriller genre has seen its share of rogue government agents, crooked operatives, and conspiracies. The genre is also full of the plot device where an agent, or person, is in possession of all the dirty little secrets the government has been hiding and is threatening to release said information to the public, or highest bidder. These two common and overused plot points are the basis for Safe House; the only somewhat original device is the use of a government safe house, but even that has been done before. There is also the inclusion of the rookie agent and seasoned pro, who has turned on the government, being played out between Matt and Tobin's characters and the bond they build. Again, seen it before. It is possible to take all of the same elements viewer's have seen before and make another film that is great; with plenty of action, a well-thought out conspiracy, and an even better twist. Plus the element of surprise, as much as is possible in a generic genre picture. Safe House's script doesn't take the generic formula and make it work, it takes it and beats it to death with cliches and listlessness.
There is time taken to try and establish Matt's character more; to give insight into his personal life and the trials of being an agent. He is in fact new to the game of playing CIA agent, and has not yet discovered the strain it can put on relationships. The one nearly unique thing in Safe House is the way it manages to portray the more human side to being an agent, and what it means you have to give up and/or risk in the profession. These more human moments, surrounded by gunfire and pointless talk about a micro-chip of information or government war-room banter saves Safe House from being a complete disappointment. The other saving grace is the heavy amount of action, combining gunfire and explosions and car chases that make the mind zone out everything else and keep blindly intoxicated by the film.
February 10, 2012