Safe House - Movie review
By: Mihir Fadnavis
Director: Daniel Espinoza
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds
Rating: *1/2 (Out of 5)
Safe House movie still
'Safe House' is a completely unimaginative movie and an ultimate exercise in listlessness. Boasting a showy directorial style, this Daniel Espinoza film is a cliched and superfluous venture that goes wrong in so many ways it is difficult to figure out where to start.
This CIA thriller potboiler doesn't lack star power - it has Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds - but it is amusingly scrappy thanks to the over-serious tone of the film. All the characters here are either devoid of any semblance of personality or are utterly one-note.
And despite the high stakes CIA plot and a large dose of car chases and gun battles, there's not much that happens in the movie - director Espinoza tries to cover the lack of a story up with snazzy handheld photography and template thriller music that indicates something significant is happening.
Denzel Washington plays Tobin Frost, a rogue CIA agent who has sold some volatile secrets to an enemy country and is being chased by various groups of hitmen and government spies. Frost is sent to a safe house in Capetown, South Africa to be watched over by Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds). Things take a turn when the safe house is breached by folks who want to nab Frost, and Weston is ordered by the CIA to transport Frost to another location. What follows are pointless action setups, unnecessary exposition of motives, the ridiculous reveal of the real antagonist and a climax that is beyond predictable.
Washington, who also produced the film, underplays his part of an unlikely dark hero. Reynolds is intermittently clumsy and dull, as he fumbles through the movie completely miscast. The battle of wits between Reynolds and Washington is as thrilling as watching paint dry. Vera Farmiga as a CIA operative adds some grace notes to the film and Brendan Gleeson as Reynold's mentor is as usual enjoyably cheeky. But the one who brings the bacon home is Sam Shepherd as the CIA director who hams amongst the seriousness of the film.
Oliver Wood's cinematography grates on the nerves through the two long hours - practically every other shot is a jerky shaky camera delayed shutter speed blur that has none of the artistry of the Bourne films. Safe House is as dull as ditchwater and has very little entertainment value, let alone a trace of intellect.