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Safe House

A movie directed by Daniel Espinosa

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A Good Premise and Cast is Wasted

  • Feb 10, 2012

In a complicated deadly game of international espionage things are rarely what they appear to be. Take the case of Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), a young man who, for all intents and purposes, appears to divide his time between his adoring French girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder) and a South African hospital. But if one were to pull back the curtain they would learn that Matt is actually a CIA agent who spends his time watching over a safe house, an assignment of painfully tedious monotony.

In the new action thriller “Safe House”, Reynolds eschews his typical charming, cocky, wisecracking on-screen personas to portray Matt as a mature young man with ambitions both inside and outside of his job. Matt longs to be assigned to a more glamorous position and is hopeful that when his 12 month tour in South Africa is up, a more exciting post awaits him in Paris. It doesn’t hurt that a Paris post will also allow him to be closer to his girlfriend when she returns to Europe in the near future. But his boss David Barlow (Brendan Gleason) isn’t as optimistic.

As his frustrations at the lack of mobility grows, Matt soon finds his quiet world torn asunder by the arrival of Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington). Frost is a former agent who went rogue and is considered an extremely dangerous and high-profile target. Having eluded the CIA for years, he only draws even more suspicion when he surrenders himself to a US consulate in South Africa. The CIA knows they have to act fast to determine what Frost knows, and quickly whisk him away to a safe house for intense interrogation. But the CIA aren’t the only ones who want to know Tobin’s secrets.

Although Matt is highly trained for his job running the safe house, he is very green when it comes to the reality of having to defend his domain against a surprise attack which leaves Tobin and Matt as the only survivors. Forced to flee and with nowhere to turn, Frost tries to convince Matt that they have been set up because someone in the agency does not want Frost to talk. At first skeptical, Matt is forced to step outside of his comfort zones and confront a deadly array of assassins as well as the threat posed by Frost himself and the unseen elements working against them. In a frantic race, Matt must keep Frost and himself alive as they attempt to reach safety and get to the truth behind the deadly game in which they’ve been cast.

Washington and Reynolds worked very well together and had a very natural, unforced chemistry. It was very nice to see Reynolds take on a grittier and more intense role than we have seen from him previously. Washington is a true artist at playing taciturn and wiley, and no one else can portray the pain and shock of being shot as subtly or as convincingly as Washington with just a simple change of expression.

That being said, the film had a number of issues. First and foremost, plot holes that you could drive a truck through and gaps in logic that really require the audience to take some serious leaps of faith. While there was some intense action, it was difficult to appreciate when it looked like the camera was being kicked around the floor during fight scenes, giving the film a very jerky quality. The film also suffered from some pacing issues with parts of the movie dragging as it worked toward an extremely predictable conclusion, one that I figured out very early into the film. There is some fine supporting work in the movie, particularly that of Gleeson and Arnezeder, as well as Ruben Blades as an old cohort of Frost’s, but it is not enough to help the film live up to its intriguing premise.

3 out of 5 stars

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February 13, 2012
Hmmm...this sounds like a good rental. I thought the trailer looked enticing but, I would hate to waste money and already know how the movie ends in the beginning of it. Thanks for saving me some cash!
February 11, 2012
Movies of this kind would often require a smooth script, and thanks for pointing out its plot holes. I am not sure, I need to see a film this weekend, but I have a feeling that I may go for something else (maybe catch up on some nominated in the Oscars). Thanks!
February 10, 2012
Great review! I wouldn't mind seeing this as a rental later on down the road, just to see Denzel Washington. I guess I could overlook the issues you had with this film.
More Safe House reviews
review by . July 26, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****    Rogue ex-CIA Agent turned criminal Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) meets with M16 agent Alec Wade (Liam Cunningham), who gives him a file that is apparently much-sought after by a group of vicious mercenaries. Tobin, gone from America for many years, suddenly enters a consulate and is instantly moved to a safe house for further interrogation. Why would he return after everything that he's done? He's a traitor, an outlaw, a criminal; and even worse, a man wanted …
review by . December 13, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Not Original or Innovative, But Definitely Visceral and Action-Packed
There is no question that Denzel Washington is one of the best actors of this generation. The man is enough to draw me out to see a movie in theaters, or at least rent out a movie on Dvd. Washington has pretty much starred in almost every genre, save for romantic movies. I have also seen Washington star in several action movies such as “Man on Fire” and his performance in “Training Day” as a crooked, scary Narc is one for the record books. Sure, his recent movies these days …
review by . February 12, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         It might be a stretch to think of Safe House as a coming of age film, as it’s structured and edited in the same way as an espionage action thriller. True enough, we have car chases, brutal hand-to-hand combat, gunfights, and a plot involving the acquisition and transportation of a secret file, which of course has dangerous international ramifications. But when you narrow in on the lead characters and really focus on their dialogue and actions, …
review by . February 12, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Safe House plays it all too safe.
SAFE HOUSE Written by David Guggenheim Directed by Daniel Espinosa Starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds and Brendan Gleeson   Tobin Frost: Remember Rule no. 1 - You are responsible for your house guest. I am your house guest.   Despite the title, at no point in time while watching SAFE HOUSE will you feel anything close to safe. Director, Daniel Espinosa, an unproven talent in the industry before now, delivers a non-stop thrill ride that provides Denzel Washington with an …
review by . February 09, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
'Safe House' 'Two Jews On Film' Have Seen It All Before (Video)
         By Joan Alperin Schwartz      Rogue agent Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) has been off the grid for the past ten years and he's been on the CIA'S most wanted list for the last decade.      CIA agent, Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) has been posted to a remote, empty Safe House in Capetown, South Africa for over a year.  He's job is to make sure the Safe House is always ready for 'visitors'. …
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Saw this on my 3 hour flight 2 days ago. A Denzel Washington movie and he did all the stunts himself, apparently. Didn't enjoy as much as his past movies but still reasonably entertaining to see him as a man on the run. A movie about dirty politics and corruptions running across the top American institutions.
About the reviewer
Gareth Von Kallenbach ()
Ranked #111
I am a syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. My work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site "Skewed … more
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