Sunday, June 10, 2012

Safe House (2012)

Let's be real here. Nobody should be watching Safe House with expectations of receiving any type of intellectual stimulation. The film is anchored by two A-list actors in Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. The former of which has formed a niche playing the anti-hero in action films who mentors a younger, more ignorant up-and-comer, whether it's Mila Kunis, Chris Pine, or now, Reynolds.

Directed by Daniel Espinosa, who was making his major-motion picture directorial debut, Safe House is an overall decent effort. The script, penned by David Guggenheim, is pretty much as straight forward as it gets. A young agent in the United States Central Intelligence Agency named Matt Weston (Reynolds) is in charge of manning a "safe house" in Cape Town, South Africa. His job is to simply occupy the house until it is needed -- if ever.

Weston is bored, feels unappreciated and underused -- evidenced early when he complains to his CIA superior David Barlow (Brendan Gleeson) over the phone. But that soon changes when former CIA agent-turned American fugitive Tobin Frost (Washington) seeks refuge at an American Consulate after being chased by some mean people who are trying to kill him. After deliberation by Barlow, fellow CIA operative Catherine Linklater (Vera Farmiga) and director Harlan Whitford (Sam Shepard), the decision is made to transport Shepard to the nearest safe house, which is Weston's.

The film is very cynical towards American politics, as Frost is immediately subjected to waterboarding and other forms of torture upon arriving at the safe house. At one point, an incredulous and naive Weston questions the legality of the practice, to which he receives no answer.

Shortly thereafter, the safe house is attacked, and Weston and Frost go on the run. The film mainly revolves around the interactions between Weston and Frost. Frequently, Frost gives advice to Weston on a number of topics, ranging from work to women. Weston doesn't listen at first, but soon realizes he'd be better suited to listen to the wily old veteran.

Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington
There's plenty of action along the way, and as in any political-thriller, some character's agendas aren't always how they appear. The relationship between the youthful Weston and the worn Frost evolves, and we come to learn that the fugitive may not be as guilty as he's accused. Subsequently, Weston, who is on the run with Frost, starts to wonder who exactly he should waver his loyalties toward.

But for an interesting topic, full of CIA agents and fugitives, the plot stays remarkably flat, even for an action movie. Espinosa does the best he could, using the "shaky camera technique" often, especially during the many action sequences.

You know what to expect out Washington as an actor, but Reynolds' performances in films recently (with the exception of Buried (2011)) have left me underwhelmed. However, I actually enjoyed him in this movie. Perhaps side-by-side tutelage from Washington benefited him during the filming. Also, a subplot involving Weston's romantic interest, Ana, portrayed by a beautiful french actress named Nora Arnezeder is thrown in, but she mainly just exists to serve as eye candy.

At 115 minutes, the film is easily 20 to 25 minutes longer than it needs to be. But if you're a fan of car chases (there's plenty of them), shootouts (plenty of those too), or even a good old-fashioned man-on-man brawl (one of those), then Safe House shouldn't let you down. But for a movie that had so much potential to educate and enlighten, it is surprisingly unintelligent.

~ Review by Ddubbs

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