When you hear the name Denzel Washington, action-packed films like Man on Fire, Training Day and America Gangster come to mind along with heartfelt performances like Philadelphia and John Q. The actor can certainly draw a crowd to the box office, but can he really save a an overdone mystery? Maybe.
Honestly, if Washington wasn’t in this film, I probably wouldn’t have it enjoyed it as much. But because I respect and love him as an actor, it made the film watchable for me.
Tobin Frost (Washington) is a CIA agent who went rogue and has been MIA for years selling intelligence secrets to all who care. As the film opens, we see him in Capetown finalizing a deal in gathering certain documents he intends to put on the market. However, his plan falls through when he becomes the target of a group of assassins, so Frost turns himself in to the US Consulate to rid them of his tracks.
Frost is transferred to a safe house where newbie “housekeeper” Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) resides. Frost is interrogated by the CIA, who ask Weston to cut all security cameras in the room as they begin to torture Frost by water-boarding him.
The safe house is soon broken into by the same assassin gang who tried to kill Frost a few hours ago, leaving Weston no choice but to flee and to take Frost with him. It’s Weston’s duty to keep Frost under his watch until he can transport him to another safe house or until a new CIA team shows up, which will take a half day’s time.
Too much action and not enough plot follows as we are thrown into car chases, gun fights and fist fights shot by cinematographer Oliver Wood, whose hand-shaking camera work didn’t make sense for the story. A steady hand and wide shots would’ve been more pleasing to the eye in giving us a better sense of the scenes and of the characters.
The supporting cast is not used often enough and we are thrown into Langley headquarters now and again where we’re introduced to the CIA director (Sam Shephard) and his top lietenants (Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson).
Weston has a love interest, a French girl who will soon be moving back to Paris, but its so brief she basically seems to be thrown in there just for the heck of it and we can’t tell what the extent of their relationship is.
Washington and Reynolds make the perfect action film duo, if only the script was suited to their talents! I was so excited for this film when I first saw the badass trailer, that I was expecting another Jason Bourne film, when really the screenplay was nowhere in comparison.
Despite stellar performances from Washington and Reynolds, Safe House is a terrific idea for a movie that doesn’t get played out to it’s full potential.