Safe House Review
By Karen Dahlstrom
The Boer Identity
In "Safe House", Ryan Reynolds plays Matt Weston, a young CIA agent stuck on "housekeeping" duty at an empty safe house in Capetown, South Africa. He's restless, eager for a more important post in a less isolated location. The house doesn't see much action, nor does Weston (apart from his relationship with a comely French doctor, played by Nora Arnezeder). That is, until the CIA brings in Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), a rogue agent wanted for selling state secrets to the highest bidder.
On the run for a decade, Frost has turned himself in to try and escape a pack of very angry dudes with very large guns. They track him to the safe house and open fire on the CIA escort. Weston and Frost manage to escape before the gunmen swarm the building. It's now Weston's responsibility to bring Frost back to the American embassy in one piece. Not an easy task for a rookie, considering Frost's attempts to ditch his captor and their pursuers' attempts to kill them before they reach safety.
Frost, a CIA legend, is described as a master manipulator. Washington uses his charm and humor to full effect as his character tries to break Weston down, preying on his sympathies and weaknesses. It doesn't help that Frost is a Jason Bourne-level badass, snapping necks and taking to rooftops to evade recapture. As his character is called in the film, "The black Dorian Gray", Washington is just as good as ever, making it hard for any co-star to keep up with him.
Fortunately, Reynolds more than steps up to meet the challenge. Playing it straight, without a hint of the smarm that sometimes creeps into his performances, Reynolds meets Washington blow-for-blow. Quite literally, in the case of a visceral, brutal fistfight in a moving car while careening through the streets of Capetown. In the past, Reynolds has proven himself capable of handling the job of action hero, but in "Safe House" he's also able to show off his dramatic chops along with his abs. Taking on the duty of delivering Frost, keeping his private life together and hunting down a CIA mole while trying not to get shot means that Weston has a lot on his plate, and Reynolds does a fine job making the audience identify with what he's going through.
Swedish director Daniel Espinosa makes his big-budget debut with "Safe House", and he takes a lot of cues from Hollywood action movies (particularly the Paul Greengrass-directed "Bourne" films). Handheld camera work and quick cuts keep the audience on edge, while the blown out colors of the African veldt seem at once familiar and disorienting. The film is in constant motion, punctuated with brutal, bone-crunching action scenes.
The film's tagline, "No one is safe," is true enough. No one is spared as the film goes from one frenetic chase to another. It barely gives you a chance to breathe before a bloody shootout, a knock-down-drag-out fight or a gut-wrenching goodbye leaves you feeling beaten and exhausted. In "Safe House", there's no such thing as a clean getaway.