Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds star in what may be the first blockbuster of the year. Action, intrigue, Ryan Reynolds with his shirt off…the masses will flock to theatres to watch this. With this meeting of old and new star power, Safe House has built quite the buzz around itself, but just how safe is it?
Ryan Reynolds stars as Matt Weston, a CIA ‘housekeeper’ assigned to Cape Town, South Africa. Weston’s days involve sitting in an empty safe house, doing nothing but answering phones and making his scheduled check-ins with CIA headquarters. But on this day, the monotony is broken as infamous, world wanted criminal and ex-CIA standout Tobin Frost, played very well by Denzel Washington, has voluntarily turned himself in at the Cape Town US consulate. Frost is taken to Weston’s safe house for interrogation by a local CIA team, and sets off a chain of events that forever changes the eager agent’s life. That’s the standard brief plot overview for an action thriller like Safe House. We all know it ‘takes off from there’.
Reynolds and Washington both turn in strong performances that carry the movie through its two hour runtime. Reynolds has recently become one of Hollywood’s go to young men for star power and box office draw. Here he plays Weston with naivety and earnestness. The character is dying for a chance to prove himself and get out of Cape Town and Reynolds infuses him with that determination and chutzpa we require of young, rookie agent types. On the other hand, Denzel Washington is…well, he’s Denzel freaking Washington. As you would expect, Washington commands your attention in every scene he’s in. Whether he’s tearing apart a hit squad out for his head or simply trying to put Reynolds off his game with sweet psychological banter, Washington is the obvious standout in the film. These are the kind of roles that Washington made though. The supporting cast also puts in decent work with Vera Farmiga as the CIA case handler assigned Frost’s surrender and Brendan Gleeson as Weston’s mentor who is also brought in on the case.
The movie is really nothing new or innovative. We have a big bad villain so renowned that anytime someone in the know catches a glimpse if him they’re practically ready for their last rites. We have the wet behind the ears young agent who may have been asking for a chance to prove himself, but now is maybe rethinking it—but he’ll be damned if he lets this opportunity slip away. Throw in easily deciphered double crosses and would-be espionage. The action is thrilling, fast pace, and hard hitting. The car chase early on in the movie is very well shot and executed and maybe the highlight of the entire ride. Fight scenes are choreographed well, but nothing Jason Bourne like. Daniel Espinosa’s directing falters here with overly shaky camera work and slaughterhouse editing, though I enjoyed the action sequences, it was sometimes hard to see exactly what was going on and who was doing what.
With two very strong performances from our leads, nice work from the supporting cast, and the requisite amount of punchy action, Safe House will satisfy the audience that’s interested in it. Those going to the cinema and looking a bit deeper will see an action film carried by its star’s performances—not something you think of very often for action thrillers. They will also see a script that’s been shot before, with no fresh ideas. I lie somewhere in the middle. I liked the movie for what it was: Denzel Washington being a BAMF, car chases, fight scenes—wrapped in a thin, easy to guess plot.