Television. Web sites. Billboards. Tomorrow, the much hyped film “Safe House” (R) gets its official wide release. The film sees Ryan Reynolds as Matt Weston, a green CIA agent responsible for guarding a safe house in Capetown, South Africa. Bored after a year of solitude, as there haven’t been any “guests” at his safe house and gunning for a promotion, Weston hopes to get relocated to Paris with his girlfriend, played by Nora Arnezeder. To contrast Weston’s boredom, the film opens with Denzel Washington, as fugitive CIA agent Tobin Frost, involved in a complicated transaction to sell confidential information obtained from top government agencies around the world. The movie wastes little time getting started as Frost is almost immediately chased by marauders attempting to usurp this information from him. To avoid being killed, Frost escapes to the American consulate in Johannesburg, where his identity is ultimately revealed and in Langley, the CIA bosses (Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, and Sam Shepard) are shocked to have him resurface after ten years underground. Immediately concerned about his safety, Frost is rushed to the closest nearby safe house- in Capetown and Weston finally has a “guest” in his house. And from there, Weston’s sole focus becomes keeping Frost alive.
In “Safe House,” the action starts in minute three of the film and is a nonstop, action packed ride until the very end. Equipped with high speed car chases, shootings, and deception, the film is especially violent, which only adds to the action. Our adrenaline was pumping throughout the film, with numerous ‘jump in your seats’ thrills peppered intermittently. Without any long breaks, the movie played out like one long chase scene- in a good way. Reynolds has perhaps found his calling as the role playing sidekick in action movies, as the film caters to his skills impressively. In fact, we watched his transformation from an inexperienced, naïve agent, to an ass kicking field agent as he begins to question whom he can trust. Slowly, he undertsands that being a field agent may in fact force him to make harder decisions than he originally thought, in both his professional and personal life. Meanwhile, Washington is himself- intense and believable- as his innate ability to cater his skills to any conceivable role, is on display throughout. As Frost, Washington immediately gets inside Weston’s head. As a former agent, he knows the protocol and what Weston must be thinking in each situation. Washington is at his best when he plays a character with a lot of mystery and in “Safe House,” his motives are unclear and may be compromised.
At its essence, “Safe House” becomes the end result of what you hope for from an action movie, with little focus on the romance between Weston and his girlfriend or Frost’s past as a field agent. The movie is really focused around the events at hand, with the questions looming of: who should we trust? What information does Frost have? And how do the bad guys continuously know where Weston and Frost are, leading us to question- is there a leak inside the CIA? Each of these questions all manage to get answered in the end, and as such, “Safe House” is certainly worth a trip out to the movies.
“Safe House” is rated R, starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, and Vera Farmiga, has a runtime of 115 minutes, and is released in theaters everywhere Friday, February 9th.
- Terry Ballou