Film: Safe House
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Ryan Reynolds does his best, but proves once again no one can hold a candle to Denzel Washington with Safe House.
Opening today, the latest film from Swedish-born Daniel Espinosa promises a lot and does a relative great job of keeping its word. That should come as no surprise to anyone who notices Washington’s name in the headline though, as he has continually proven to be a star unlike any other even with the weakest script.
Safe House follows a young CIA agent (Reynolds) who has spent the better part of the past year watching an underutilized safe house in Cape Town, South Africa. As luck would have it, shortly after complaining to his bosses in DC about the lack of field action, the agent is told a highly-dangerous fugitive is being brought in for holding until extraction, and as you can probably guess from the trailers, things do not go as planned. The fugitive, ex-CIA agent Tobin Frost (Washington), is wanted by the US government as well as other major world players for selling secrets, and someone wants him dead. The house is raided, our stars escape, and 2012’s first whodunit is underway.
After the initial twenty-minutes of empty exposition and tired spy cliches, there is a lot to love about Safe House. The story is paced with enough vigor to keep younger generations on board, but makes sure to thicken the plot at every opportunity for those who prefer something with a bit more depth. Espinosa’s eye for making a scene feel not only real, but intense is jaw-dropping and, though aided significantly by Washington’s pitch-perfect portrayal of Frost, it is this keen sense for camera work that carries writer David Guggenheim’s script from the trench of mediocrity. That is not to say the film does not have its flaws, there are many, but the blows of soul-sucking familiarity are softened thanks in part to Espinosa and his efforts.
What kept coming back to my mind throughout the film was the continuing lackluster performances from Ryan Reynolds. Though better than his portrayal of the Green Lantern, Reynold’s efforts in Safe House are just that – safe. For a guy who made films like Buried, Chaos Theory, and Paper Man in recent years, 2012 is off to a much weaker dramatic start than one would hope. He gives nothing, takes nothing, and leaves you feeling apathetic towards his character.
All Reynolds complaints aside, it is hard to imagine many people leaving Safe House feeling shorted in the entertainment department. The film does lean heavily on some tried and true action cliches, but a few strong performances, couple with fantastic direction keeps this adventure afloat just long enough to cross the finish line with style.
This weekend, if you must see a brand new release, Safe House is your best bet by a mile.
Review written by: James Shotwell (Twitter)