Review: Safe House
Remember rule number one: you are responsible for your house guest.
Safe House is a copy and it’s inferior imitation. Still, it’s enjoyable, even if it is derivative, coming across as a synthesis of 24 and The Bourne trilogy but nowhere near as innovative. Safe House’s biggest flaw is that it doesn’t have an original bone in its body.
Ryan Reynolds is Matt Weston, an inexperienced agent who’s stuck twiddling his thumbs at a safe house in Cape Town. When Denzel Washington’s rogue CIA agent Tobin Frost turns himself in to the US consulate and is transported to the safe house, all hell breaks loose when a hit team tries to kill him. Weston and Frost escape but the former’s allegiance to the CIA is tested when he’s marginalised by his superiors as he tries to keep Frost under control.
It’s not a hugely original plot, the twist and turns the story takes are conventional and the roles don’t really stretch the talents of Reynolds and Washington. Despite the David Guggenheim’s script appearing on the 2010 Black List, what it excels at is taking all the tropes from better action films and embedding them into one story.
The lack of interesting ideas spreads to the cast who are weighed down by clichés and stereotypes. The villain is obvious once you give it some thought, the real mystery is why they bothered to keep it a secret. Washington is, as always, good, his natural charisma creating a character that’s always in charge; always one step ahead of everyone else. Reynolds is fine, holding his own against Washington in the scenes the two actors share but he’s saddled by a pointless romance subplot.
The real star is the location of Cape Town, giving the film a look and feel that’s fresh. The action on the other hands is borrowed wholesale from the Bourne films and implemented in an almost dizzying array of quick cuts. The best thing to say about the action is that it’s not as bad as other films, but it’s getting to the point where someone needs to get the director, cinematographer or editor to take a sedative and calm down. These frenzied sequences don’t have the effect of putting the viewer in the scene unless it’ replicating an almighty seizure.
So Safe House is entertaining but it disappoints in how low its ambitions, a by-the-numbers action film that’ll be probably forgotten very soon.