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Safe House

A movie directed by Daniel Espinosa

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Not Original or Innovative, But Definitely Visceral and Action-Packed

  • Dec 13, 2012
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 may have been not excellent, but no one can argue that Washington has always been excellent in every role he has played in. Such as is the case with Swedish director Daniel Espinosa’s “Safe House”.

                          Denzel Washington as Tobin Frost and Ryan Reynolds as Matt Weston in "Safe House.''

Washington plays Tobin Frost, an ex-CIA operative who went off the grid some years ago. Frost is untraceable and wanted for treason by the U.S. government so it is odd that he would suddenly walk into a U.S. consulate in Capetown to give himself up. Before he is to be extracted out of the country, Frost is taken to a “safe house’ whose “keeper” is a young man named Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds, Green Lantern) who proclaims that he is ready for field assignments. When armed operatives hold an assault to extricate Frost, Weston must do whatever it takes to keep him in custody, but things are not always what they appear to be and Weston is about to learn a thing or two from Frost.

                        Ruben Blades and Denzel Washington as Tobin Frost in ``Safe House.''

                       Ryan Reynolds as Matt Weston in ``Safe House.''

The movie’s screenplay by David Guggenheim is simple, low key and yet the execution with the direction is what you can call as brisk and loud. There are questions that drive the story such as what is Frost’s true agenda, and who are the men after him? Who is behind this wild turnaround of events that Weston even begins to doubt where he stands in this game of cat and mouse? “Safe House” is a film about espionage, although the film spends a lot of time playing itself as a chase film, with Weston trying to keep up with Frost and the CIA trying to make sense of what is going on. The direction plays on the key elements of the film but it makes it obvious just what is sought after.

The script also injects some dramatic moments as to how things can affect personal lives and how being an operative, there are times that you don’t know which side you are on. The exchanges between Frost and Weston are what we can see as the ‘old guard’ awakening the views of the ‘new guard’, as Weston gets to know the stakes as Frost gets into his head. Weston is the kind of operative who wants to do good, and he will, as long as he knows he is on the right side of the equation. Denzel Washington is terrific as Tobin Frost, as he appears, stronger, smarter, tougher and much more ‘cool’ under pressure than Ryan Reynold’s Matt Weston. It was perfectly credible that Frost seems to be able to be one step ahead of Weston and the young man while able to keep up at times, could never get the upper hand over the veteran ex-operative who has been considered as a legend.

                           Vera Farmiga and Sam Shepard in ``Safe House.''

                          Denzel Washington as Tobin Frost in ``Safe House.''

 Be informed, that “Safe House” is not the type of movie where you should expect surprises and shocking revelations under an original story. The film is a show of performances, while wrapped around decent action thrills. Washington’s Frost did remind me of “Training Day”, while the action thrills appear similar to the “Bourne” movies. The supporting cast built on with Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard and Brendan Gleeson are all characters with the usual ‘spy’ stereotypes, who may lack layers as shown in the screenplay.

I have to admit that the direction was also pretty solid with shots of the action sequences. I was impressed with the car chases, gun battles and the fights were close and personal, they were gritty and tough. Antoine Fuqua could not have done better. Espinosa even shot a pretty good depiction of water torture called ‘water boarding’ which can feel a little unnerving. The film had a visceral attitude and packs some power when it comes to the gunfights and fisticuffs. Espinosa displayed talent in staging those action thrills as his style and camera work carried some tense, bruising energy that helped in his generation of its suspense and the definition of the stakes involved.                          

“Safe House” may seem like your standard espionage action-thriller fare, while there isn’t much not to enjoy in “Safe House”, it isn’t exactly innovative or original. Ryan Reynolds was a little out of his element but he did a good job, and though he struggled with his scenes and he just could not match Washington’s commanding presence on-screen, he didn’t falter and was kind of able to hold his own. Espinosa has a good eye for action, and definitely is one visceral filmmaker. “Safe House” did not do anything new and ground-breaking, but it sure was entertaining thanks to the direction and the performances. It kept me interested for its entirety.

Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

Denzel Washington as Tobin Frost in "Safe House.'' Poster art for "Safe House."
Not Original or Innovative, But Definitely Visceral and Action-Packed

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December 13, 2012
Yeah I would rate this about the same, great review.
December 16, 2012
thanks, man
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 . February 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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.
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