‘Safe House’ Review
Great performances but ironically ‘safe’ to a fault.
‘Safe House’ is a pretty entertaining action thriller that isn’t short on thrills and features excellent performances by both Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. But at the same time, it actually feels that the film took its title very literally when it came to the writing. It’s safe, predictable and something we’ve seen a hundred times before.
The film follows a CIA agent (Ryan Reynolds) who works at a boring job as a safe “housekeeper” while aspiring to actually get a chance to become a full-fledged agent. But when an internationally notorious criminal Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is brought into his safe house by the CIA for questioning, he finds the safe house breached and attacked by mysterious forces and is now on the run with Tobin to protect him and lead him to safety before time runs out.
It’s the kind of plot that has been done a lot of times before, most notably in the Bruce Willis actioner ‘16 Blocks’ which literally has almost the same plot going on. And that’s the biggest issue with the movie – it has nothing new to offer. Sure, there is a storyline that is going on and the film tries to rack up mysteries and twists as it goes on, but nothing that we haven’t seen before. It’s the same old CIA plot that never really grips you or tries to do anything different within the genre. There’s one plot twist in the finale of the movie that you will predict from the third scene of the movie itself if you’ve ever seen a single thriller of this sort. This might be a viewer’s only disappointment with the film.
But clearly, ‘Safe House’ hasn’t been selling itself on the value of its story. It’s been selling itself on it’s star value which is admittedly pretty strong. The pairing of Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds works better than you’d think and stands as the strongest part of the movie. Both of them deliver excellent performances, with Denzel Washington playing the calm and calculated baddie that he’s used to playing but fits the character very well. Ryan Reynolds is especially impressive as a CIA agent who got more than he asked for with a mission way more dangerous that he could have imagined. He’s intense and plays the role with total sincerity, while Denzel is more comfortable playing the kind of guy that he usually plays. Add to that a cast including Brandon Gleeson and Vera Farminga and it’s clear that the cast is what elevates this otherwise standard action thriller.
Speaking of action, there’s a lot of chase scenes and thrilling moments here that keep you engaged throughout. A particular chase scene on the streets of South Africa is intense and stands as one of the highlight moments of the film. The pacing is fast and keeps you on your feet aside from a needless romantic subplot that cuts its way into a few scenes. The finale is more subdued but actually works better that way. But one complaint I have from these action scenes is how they were shot and edited. The editing is haphazard and chaotic to a point that some great chase sequences during the second half are diluted in effect. Even the director tries to do the whole ‘shakey-cam’ routine inspired from Bourne and other such modern action thrillers but the camera-work is dizzying and doesn’t really work in the context of some scenes. It’s like the director had Denzel Washington in the cast and was desparately trying to mimic Tony Scott’s direction and failed in the process. Even the simplest emotional dialogue scene cuts away too many times with weird angles and spoils the moment. But if you can get past that, the action here is satisfying if not entirely original.
‘Safe House’ is an enjoyable action thriller that says in safe territory by never really doing something out of the box and is hampered by some weak technical points, but the strength of the cast and thrill element makes it worth a look.