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Movie Review: Safe House

February 25, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 163

Denzel Washington (Tobin Frost) stars in this latest action thriller with co-star Ryan Reynolds (Matt Weston). Washington has been off the big screen map for a couple years. Safe House gives him the perfect venue to come roaring back as only he can.

The movie is slow to start with the setup taking the first 20 minutes, filling the audience in on the back story of the two main characters. Frost, an ex-CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) agent, has been rogue for several years and has put himself in a position to make a large amount of money while exiting the game with grand scale repercussions throughout the world. While finalizing the deal, there are double-crossings going on from every angle, putting Frost at the center and forcing him to retreat to the US embassy in South Africa. He is quickly transported to a safe house monitored by Matt Weston, an over-achiever trapped in his job.

Weston lives with his girlfriend (Ana Moreau ), a French doctor who has been accepted into a position in her native France. Weston and Moreau have an open discussion about where they want to lay down stakes while both of their careers expand. Ana is willing to go anywhere Matt would like, although his boss is holding him back from moving up in his division. He has created a facade that allows him the freedom to be late when it becomes necessary to monitor the safe house for extended hours.

Frost is now in US custody where the CIA can interrogate him under less scrutiny in a country that is more tolerant of physical torture to extract information. A team of interrogators with optimum combat skills are assigned to protect as well as elicit statements using any means. During the torture for information, an unknown group who had been in pursuit of Frost has infiltrated the safe house compound. The two groups have a day at the OK corral which leaves Weston alone in the locked down interrogation room. It soon becomes apparent that he must move Frost to a safer place.

The action becomes non-stop at this point in the film. The car chases put even "The Fast and the Furious" to shame as Weston and Frost zig-zag through the city, attempting to escape from those looking to kidnap Tobin. Problems have only begun when Matt finds himself alone and in charge of the safe keeping of Frost until the CIA can get a crew deployed to South Africa. Meanwhile, Matt phones Ana to let her know that he will not be home on time, but he will make it up to her when they get together. She feels things are wrong along with the trust she has for him, but she puts him at ease about being late.

The film has very few twists and turns at this point, as just one mystery remains. Who tipped off the group trying to kidnap Frost from the safe house, and how did they even know where he was? This is what Frost understands, and with his years as an interrogator he has the ability to brief Weston on things that will happen along with the fallout of his response. Frost cries wolf outside a stadium where Weston is to hand him off to a team of CIA agents. Making a scene, Frost gets the attention of guards who he makes believe that he has been taken hostage. The guards put Weston in handcuffs while whisking Frost off to the infirmary at the stadium. Weston points out that the guards have been overtaken by Frost, and as the men watch the live video feed they realize he has escaped. Weston escapes quickly following in the pursuit of Frost but finds himself unable to stay on his heels.

He calls headquarters, filling them in on the events that have transpired and advises them that he has built knowledge of the city which will be an asset in tracking him down. Weston knows that there were things Frost said to him during their time together that will put Matt back on his tail. David Barlow (Brendan Gleeson ) has been Matt's immediate supervisor for a long period of time. He had consoled Matt when he was passed up for an advanced position and knows that although young and in need of proving his worthiness, he has the tools to get the job done.

Catherine Linklater (Vera Farmiga ) is in direct contrast with Barlow. Unfortunately, it was her team that was initially responsible for the extraction and interrogation of Frost and they let him slip through their fingers. Harlan Whitford (Sam Shepard ), the head of their department, gives Barlow the go ahead, allowing Weston to stay in pursuit of Frost. Both Linklater and Barlow head to South Africa to see that nothing goes wrong this time. Frost is again in the custody of Weston and the two have built a bond of respect during a shootout with those determined to retrieve the microchip containing vital information.

Just when you think the film has no surprises, it gives the viewer one that happens so fast that if you blink, well you missed it. It does make you sit up and take notice for the remaining of the movie. Oh no, I will not give it away.

The one drawback is director Daniel Espinosa continuously drawing the tear-laden Ryan Reynolds in an attempt to give sympathy to his character. Sadly, this is not the way to have his character portrayed as a young CIA agent who wants to build respect while showing his maturity. It almost seems like the promotion that continually alludes him is proved to be the appropriate decision. A field agent who needs to affirm their competence should not be shedding a tear, especially in front of their prisoner. Anyone in Frost's position would take full advantage of his captor's emotional leakage.

The Jay-Z/Kanye West song "No Church in the Wild" that appears in the trailer is a grabber that is a perfect fit for the film.

David Guggenheim could have put a little more effort into the dialogue, giving Espinosa, Washington, and Reynolds a bit more depth so they could explode on the screen with more than car chases. This could have given more reason to score the film a five star.


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