Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Robert Patrick, Brendan Gleeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ruben Blades
4 featurettes ("Making Safe House", "Hand-To-Hand Action", "Building the Rooftop Chase", "Inside The CIA"). The Blu-ray release will also include 3 additional featurettes ("Behind The Action", "Safe Harbor: Cape Town", "Shooting the Safe House Attack"), and a digital copy of the film.
|Grade: A to A-
|Grade: B+ to B
|Grade: B- to C+
|Grade: C to C-
There are few fundamental truths in Hollywood, the land of the wildly inconsistent and unpredictable. One of the few fundamental truths is that actor Denzel Washington elevates every project with which he is attached. Now, if he didn't so frequently need to do so.
Safe House seems to be the latest in a fairly predictable line of action films with which Washington aligns himself. While these films often have the name of director Tony Scott also attached, this film is directed by Sweden born director Daniel Espinosa. While the films of Scott and Espinosa definitely share a vibe, Espinosa's Safe House is a more substantive and meaningful project that somehow makes sense when one considers Washington's filmography and his long-standing history of trying, not always successfully, to weave meaningful messages into action-packed and entertaining films.
In this film, Washington is Tobin Frost, a long gone CIA operative who shows back up possessing some key intel and is holed up at a South African safe house under the watchful eye of wannabe operative and handler Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds). Of course, there wouldn't be much of a film if something didn't go horribly awry and go horribly awry it most certainly does when this safe house proves to be not so safe.
Espinosa has been building a name for himself in Sweden and popped up in Hollywood circles in 2010 with the action flick Easy Money, a film that has been acquired by The Weinstein Company with no release date set yet. While that film hasn't yet seen the light of day, it's easy to understand why the Hollywood machine sees so much potential with Espinosa. While Safe House is equal parts Tony Scott and Paul Greengrass, the comparison is almost unfair as Espinosa gives the film a look and feel all his own even if he is working from a fairly basic action thriller written by David Guggenheim.
While Guggenheim's script is a standard-issue action thriller with standard action thriller dialogue, Safe House gets elevated largely thanks to two terrific performances by Washington and Ryan Reynolds and Bourne film vets D.P. Oliver Wood and editor Richard Pearson, both of whom lend the film a sense of urgency and rapid pace that works perfectly with its nearly relentless action and Washington's dependable intensity.
The film also benefits from its well cast supporting players including Brendan Gleeson as Weston's stateside superior and Vera Farmiga and Sam Shepard as a couple of CIA bigwigs who Weston is trying to impress in his effort to move up the CIA food chain.
Once the whole debacle at the safe house occurs, Safe House the movie really takes off though it's arguable that the film winds down with action sequences that border on ludicrous and a less satisfying resolution than one would've hoped given the gravity of Washington's performance. Washington continues to be one of the few actors who can successfully explore a character's dark side without turning the character entirely dark.
Safe House is opening alongside the romantic weeper The Vow and Dwayne Johnson's latest family film, the Journey to the Center of the Earth sequel. So, if action's your thing Safe House is the obvious choice this weekend.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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