Safe House is the latest in the recent trend of CIA/spy based action/thrillers that got kicked off by the Bourne series and it’s a solid entry in the genre, even if it doesn’t do anything too original.
Denzel Washington stars as Tobin Frost, one of the most wanted CIA fugitives and a former CIA agent himself. Frost comes into possession of some information that people are willing to kill for and Frost makes the tactical decision to turn himself in to the American consulate to avoid capture by a group of shadowy gunmen. Frost is then transfered to a CIA safe house, watched over by low level operative Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), which is promptly attacked and Weston and Frost are forced into fleeing into Cape Town, South Africa while the officials in Washington scramble to figure out what’s going on.
Denzel almost completely carries the movie with another in a long line of roles where he’s a complete bad ass. Tobin Frost (which is an amazing name BTW) is like a cross between Hannibal Lecter and Jason Bourne, always in complete control of every situation or analyzing every aspect to gain the upper hand and not above cooly murdering anyone who gets in his way. Denzel also gives Frost a sense of history and that he’s seen a ton of horrible shit go down and that has affected his morality to the point where’s at now. Interestingly, by the end of the movie, he’s trying to protect Weston from going down a similar path. Speaking of Weston, after last year’s disastrous display of douchebaggery by Ryan Reynolds in movies like Green Lantern and The Change Up, it’s a nice change of pace to see him play a character that isn’t a complete toolbag and he has some extremely solid fight scenes. Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga and Sam Shepherd are the trio of CIA big wigs back in Washington and, while they’re great as usual, it’s not too difficult to predict what is going to happen to each of their characters (*spoiler* one of them turns out to be the bad guy). The one thing about the scenes back at the CIA are that are basically just exposition factories, one scene gives you the entire history of Tobin Frost and the next gives you Matt Weston’s history. Also Robert Patrick is awesome in the five or ten minutes he’s in the movie.
All of the action sequences in Safe House are extremely solid and something I thought they did extremely well was chain sequences together. For instance, the raid on the titular safe house goes from an intense gun battle to a car chase to a close quarters fight inside the car seamlessly, making what would be five to ten minute sequences into twenty minute set pieces. I also really liked how Tobin Frost was able to manipulate crowds in order to engineer escapes. At different points he uses a protest to sneak away and causes a panic at a soccer game, allowing him to slip away from Weston.
Overall, Safe House is an extremely solid action movie that, if you’re a fan like I am of Denzel in bad ass mode, is definitely worth checking out. The action is solid throughout even if the plot is a little by the numbers. It’s definitely a more successful spy/action movie than, say, Haywire was a couple weeks ago.
3.5 out of 5