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Film Title: Safe House

Film Review: Safe House

A thriller where a rookie agent must evade the skilful manipulation of his captive, whilst keeping them both alive, Safe House sounded pretty intriguing and had me hoping for a sort of Odd Couple with guns. Though compared with what I’d anticipated, it’d have a far stronger focus on the guns, rather than the couple.

Whilst being attacked in Cape Town, rogue former CIA agent Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is forced to give himself up to the nearby American Embassy. But when the safe house he’s moved to is besieged, the “house-keeper” Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is charged with keeping Frost detained and protected, whilst determining if the CIA has a leak.

It was critical that the interplay between Frost and Weston worked well. Naturally, despite his character being under arrest, Denzel Washington is a great deal more dominant than Ryan Reynolds, who isn’t as assertive on the screen. This was presumably intentional because Reynolds plays a younger naïve agent. Except it works too effectively, as generally it isn’t a good thing when there’s such a difference in the two leads’ ability to hold your attention. However the more we learn about the “dominating” Tobin Frost, the less interesting he actually gets. First built up as a badass/ rogue/ sociopath, he becomes less appealing to you when to he’s more familiar and less of an absolute.

Similar to Frost, the film declines as it goes. Opening with some tense and exciting scenes of dialogue, these are soon eclipsed by the sub-Bourne action sequences, filled with jarring quick cuts. Obvious twists and exposition from the duller characters break up these action bits, not leaving much to break the monotony. Although there’s much violence, it’s frequently boring since the viewer doesn’t also experience any of the pain in these situations. The best action scene happens early, in a car and between the two mains. The quick cuts and close-ups work there and importantly it features characters we know.

Much could’ve been cut to make Safe House more succinct and perhaps better. The film brings nothing new and drags after an absorbing opening. The action galore just gets in the way of the rookie and the rogue sizing each other up, which I actually wanted to see. Yet those parts take a downturn when Frost and Weston grew closer, which damages the film’s best element. Admittedly I didn’t expect Denzel Washington to stay all villainous throughout, still I didn’t count on it getting quite so lame. Perhaps the makers feared that the audiences wouldn’t like him if he remained too ambiguous. This lack of creativity and no willingness to take chances resulted in a finial product that’s far safer than its eponymous house.

- Jon Bartholomew



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