Safe House is a gritty action thriller that pays homage to the Bourne movies with its shaky camera footage and action sequences, yet gets a coat of freshness by being shot in Cape Town.
PLOT: A young CIA agent is tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. But when the safe house is attacked, he finds himself on the run with his charge.
DIRECTOR: Daniel Espinosa
ACTORS: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds
GENRE: Action, Thriller
AGE RESTRICTION: Rated 16 (Violence)
TRIVIA: Denzel Washington was actually water-boarded during the filming of a torture scene. The movie was originally set in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, but was moved to Cape Town due to security concerns. The final film to use the 1997 Universal Logo.
Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds – The Proposal, Green Lantern) is a rookie CIA agent, tasked with being the “housekeeper” for a safe house location in Cape Town. He is bored out of his skull, as in his 12 months there, absolutely nothing has happened.
Then, international fugitive Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington – Book of Eli), unexpectedly walks into the American consulate in Cape Town, and is transferred to Weston’s safe house. An extraction team is also sent from Joburg to assist and question Frost.
The safe house gets compromised; the extraction team is slaughtered, and is overrun by bad guys in search of Frost. Weston takes Frost and breaks out of the safe house.
The rest of the movie plays out as the cat-and-mouse games between Weston, Frost and their pursuers continue throughout Cape Town. Weston has to figure out who is more dangerous; the guys chasing them, or Frost.
Safe house is a decent movie with a rather predictably and thin story-line. What does make this movie stand out is the performances by the two lead actors. Washington manages to stay very confident and in control, with just one or two glimpses of doubt and anger at the perfect times, which makes his character so much more believable. Although not his best performance, Washington is such a good actor, he stills pulls off a good performance.
Reynolds was surprisingly good. This is the sort of roles he can take more of, rather than the campy fluff which is Green Lantern. He is actually brilliant as the rookie agent, who has to protect this value target, evade deadly pursuers and deal with Frost trying to get into his head. He has a sort of freshness and vulnerability that hasn’t been seen before and this is probably his best role due to that.
The action sequences were quite brutal and hard-hitting, but good. They didn’t feel over the top, yet were very well orchestrated to look big and believable.
The one aspect of the movie I didn’t like was the camera work. This movie has a lot of shaky camera footage, which can irritate many, but what really got me, was that a lot of the footage was badly out of focus. It feels like rookie errors where the actors have to work with shoddy workmanship from behind the camera.
It was refreshing to see the movie set in Cape Town. But that only lasted a few minutes as one could see that they made Cape Town look like a dump. Remember, this was originally set in the favelas of Rio. We see protesting, road-works and then some more nastiness as the film moves into Kayalitsha.
Safe House is a good movie from Daniel Espinosa (The Fighter), with powerhouse performances from Washington and Reynolds and although a predictable story, it never felt as if they tried to hide this from you.