As soon as the credits started to roll, I thought to myself ‘That was a surprisingly good film’, going into Safe House I didn’t expect it to be good. I expected it would be a decent and fun affair; a good way to pass the afternoon, as it turned out it was a lot more than that.
The film is about one of the CIA’s most wanted men, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), he seems to have acquired something that some very bad men want. Being on the run and seeing he has no other choice, he walks into the South African US embassy. The CIA aren’t taking this lightly, and send him off for interrogation at a ‘safe house’, one looked after by Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds). Before long, the place gets raided and Weston steps up to the plate in order to do the right thing and get Frost out of there. The pair are on the run, there is no trust between the men and what Frost is holding is of high value. A cat and mouse game follows …
Safe House is an action/thriller, it is fast paced for the most part and it certainly contains a level of seriousness that I didn’t expect. It has some crazy action but they definitely tried something different with it, and instead of having people be invincible to bullets and punches, people got hurt and the action was delivered in a little more of a realistic way than we’re used to. While some of the twists you might see coming, the action aspect isn’t at all predictable and some of it is a little shocking. Some if the set pieces are really well handled, and the chase scenes are nicely done.
On the other side of the fence, this was a pretty decently acted film. Denzel always delivers, he is great here, he’s a mysterious character and he never over sells it. Everything we need to know about him is established, and he plays it spot on. The biggest surprise though was Ryan Reynolds, he’s always been an actor that I do like but I can’t take him seriously. He’s usually the comedic guy, and even in something a little serious, there is always some kind of humor there. But this was all gone in Safe House, this was serious Reynolds and I gotta say the dude has the chops! He was really good, he played it straight, and he gave us a sympathetic and engrossing character. Side plays like Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson are fine, they come in and do their thing. Run of the mill roles, but they filled them just fine.
Safe House on paper isn’t really anything new, the story has been told before. But it has been told in a solid and fresh way here, it is an enjoyable and entertaining film, and much better than I had expected. It strengths shine through, and its weaker parts are apparent but they don’t ruin anything. It perhaps could have been a little tighter with pacing, but they got it right where it counted. A solid directorial effort by Daniel Espinosa, and a decent script by David Guggenheim.
Marcella Papandrea blogs at Killer Film.