Safe House Movie Review

1171

Safe House is a movie title describing just about anything but. Safe House is an exceedingly hyperactive CIA cat and mouse, odd couple espionage thriller. And – its bone-crunching, audience wincing violence aside is a strikingly choreographed, if strangely involving yarn.

Ryan Reynolds is Matt Weston in Safe House, a bored out of his mind junior CIA agent, stuck in a slacker holding pattern in Cape Town, South Africa. Which, according to the creative lingo that always surfaces with the CIA in such movies, is a designation known as “housekeeper.”

Meanwhile, by chance, dashing about the streets of the same city in strictly freelance undercover mode, is infamous CIA turncoat Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), a quietly fierce master trickster who has eluded capture for nearly a decade. And who is accused of peddling all sorts of state secrets to the highest international bidders.

denzel washington safe house
Denzel Washington Safe House.

When a hit on the rogue operative and ensuing shootout with possible dissatisfied customers transpires in broad daylight, Frost for a change dashes to the local CIA hopefully safe haven, rather than as far away from them as possible. Brutally remanded to an interrogation facility at the movie’s safe house in question, Frost, aka ‘the guest’ is bound and water boarded to force him to disclose information. A procedure which stuns naive novice Weston and leads him to exclaim, is that legal?

Not to worry, the sinister session is interrupted by a safe home invasion of mysterious machine gun-toting, designated villains intent on killing Frost. After which the multi-talented poker-faced perp easily slips away, aka ‘off the reservation,’ with Weston in endless hot pursuit. Until the unlikely pair in perpetual negative chemistry mode, tentatively team up to repel a potentially even greater threat. Aka, ‘Can you trust your landlord?’

Safe House Direction

Safe House is directed by Daniel Espinosa, the Swedish based offspring of Chilean refugees fleeing CIA installed dictator, Augusto Pinochet. And a tidbit of information not without relevance in these matters at hand.

And shedding an enigmatic light on quite an elephant in this safe room, in the course of all these vast, bullet dodging, brilliantly executed chase episodes – including hugely populated crowd scenes among a soccer stadium crowd, and what looks like a heated Occupy movement protest. Namely, what exactly is the CIA doing running around on all this multiple foreign turf, shooting thoughtlessly into crowds and conducting random target assassinations.

All of which lends the proceedings in Safe House a remarkable breadth and tone, despite often typical assorted mayhem. And intimating among all the boisterous beatdowns, some timely Wikileaks intimations as well.

Safe House
Universal Pictures
Rated R
3 stars

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.