director Daniel Espinosa makes his Hollywood transition with Safe House,
a Bournesque spy thriller. Though many other big names auditioned for
the lead, we have Ryan Reynolds as Matt Weston, an eager rookie CIA
agent deployed in Cape Town at a ‘safe house’. This is essentially an
isolated, monitored apartment where suspects are brought in for
questioning and so forth.
Bored by twelve months of answering calls and
looking at screens, he hopes to secure a much-wanted position in Paris,
much to the delight of his French girlfriend Ana (the attractive Nora Arnezeder does not get much screen time). In the dead of night, the
phone rings. However, it is not his promotion but rather a ‘houseguest’
heading his way. This is no ordinary enemy of the USA.
Enter a scraggly Denzel Washington, as Tobin Frost, one of the best
agents ever, who went rogue nine years ago but is now throwing himself
at the mercy of America. He has secret info and is being chased by some
menacing, bearded foes. They break into the supposed safe house and
agent Weston must avoid them but also shepherd one dangerous guy until
the CIA can send back-up. This task involves amazing car chases,
football stadiums, trains and slums.
This is a very efficiently edited
film, with lots of sharp cuts and high-tech gadgetry but it is lacking
the Bond chic or lustre of the Mission Impossible or Bourne franchises.
The focus is on the individual, and Reynolds delivers great physicality.
I think the aim at a romance angle is somewhat superfluous and adds
useless minutes to the straining runtime of virtually two hours.
Reynolds and Washington form a great goodie-baddie chemistry and you
start to wonder about the integrity of those in power. This is an
enjoyable film provided you know what you’re in for. While not
spectacular, Safe House is good genre fodder with South Africa as a
gritty, unusual backdrop.