Safe House sets out to be action packed. And it is. If you take your average modern action movie and double up on car chases, gunfights and grappling battles, it would start to approach what Safe House is like. It’s exciting and can be said to be too much of a good thing, strong performances give the film enought lift, making it as memorable as the movie Taken.
CIA agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) has been stuck in his low-level assignment guarding a safe house in Cape Town for a year now. He’s looking to move up, but his assignment, which mostly entails staring at walls all day, doesn’t provide many opportunities for advancement. His routine is broken up when rogue agent Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is brought to his door. For the past decade, Frost has been selling vital intelligence to the highest bidder, making him one of the highest value targets in the intelligence community. Weston gets the chance to prove himself when the interrogation is suddenly interrupted by a heavily armed assault. Weston escapes with Frost, and sets out to deliver him back to the agency. But along the way, Weston begins to suspect that there’s something more going on behind the scenes.
What follows is essentially two hours of chasing, gun shooting, fighting, and explosions. When the film is moving, it’s easy enough to get caught up in all the chaos. The action just keeps coming, with wave after wave of dynamic set pieces wreaking havoc on Cape Town. The film rattles through its plot, making all sorts of noise in order to distract from some of the bigger holes in the fabric.
Things are made a little more interesting by the camerawork, which finds a couple of intriguing angles in capturing the action. The most compelling ones zoom all the way, looking at the chaos from a bird’s eye view, taking in the entirety of the setting. Most action films nowadays get in close to hide the flaws, and it’s refreshing to see a movie willing to take that risk.
The film benefits from a couple of great central performances. Denzel Washington brings a lot of charisma to the role. He exudes both intelligence and weariness, and just enough of a hint of psychosis to really make him feel dangerous. From the very moment that he enters the frame, you know that his character has seen things. Ryan Reynolds, in contrast, plays the rookie pretty well. There’s always a glimmer of uncertainty in his eyes, playing a nice chord with his visible determination. The film also gets good support from the likes of Brendan Gleeson and Vera Farmiga, who always deliver.
Safe House is competent and rarely inspired, a real action-packed movie so far this year.