Movie review: Safe House

February 20, 2012


Denzel Washington could make a banana perform as if it were Carmen Miranda in the flesh. He just brings out the best in his costars that way. In his latest release, Safe House, he even manages to make Ryan Reynolds appear as if he wants to act. (Sorry Ryan, I’m still epically disappointed in your Green Lantern performance…) In all seriousness, the movie is pretty good for a February release and a must-see for those who love a good explosion or seven.

Safe House has an intensity that is purely driven by Tobin Frost (Denzel), a rogue CIA agent who walks into an American consulate in South Africa after being targeted by mysteriously adept bad guys. Given Frost’s history of shuttling top-secret intelligence between countries, his voluntary appearance at the consulate is hugely concerning for the CIA. The CIA decides to move Frost to one of their safe houses; specifically, the one supervised by the very inexperienced CIA agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds).

Of course this goes poorly, because those mysteriously adept bad guys manage to get into the supposedly secure safe house, causing Weston to hesitantly take custody on the move with the ever-cool Frost. Denzel’s ability to speak in a calm and measured way is unequaled—his demeanor makes him a perfect foil to the fearful Weston. The reason Weston has so little confidence in his own ability is due to his unwavering faith in protocol and the righteousness of the CIA. As a former agent himself, Frost is so much wiser, and eventually gets Weston to see that all the CIA does is not gold. The dynamic of the two leading men feels very authentic, and that is a credit to both of their acting abilities.

Shockingly, Safe House is Swedish director Daniel Espinosa’s first American film. The aforementioned explosions are not subdued, but not over the top—they’re kind of realistic and always appropriately timed. Violence is certainly present, but not grotesque or obnoxiously overdone. In recalling the film, I remember how attractive the colors were—the dark scenes were perfectly midnight blue, the daylight scenes were vivid and saturated. The film was really well made, with the plot keeping a healthy pace and no loose ends or digressions made.

As much as I appreciate the performances and appearance of Safe House, the story itself lacked a certain amount of suspense. The twists and turns are well marked in advance, so nothing terribly surprising arises. That said, Safe House is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Denzel’s voice and cadence is worth the price of admission. Enjoy!