Capsule Movie Review – Safe House (2012)
by HELEN GEIB
The Cape Town, South Africa setting vies with the lead performances as best thing about the Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds spy thriller Safe House. Part spy thriller, part action movie; there are foot chases and car chases interspersed with gun fights and anything goes brawling. The action starts in the bustling city center and works its way through streets, apartment buildings, the stadium, a township slum, and an isolated farmhouse. As the heroes’ situation becomes increasingly desperate, the locations turn poorer, seedier, and ultimately, desolate. Daniel Espinosa’s direction takes its cue from Washington’s regular behind-the-camera collaborator Tony Scott, while the cinematography exploits the city’s sun-bleached days and harshly lit nights for an appropriately brutalized aesthetic. The movie is at its best when it focuses on the battle of wills and wits between Washington’s rogue spy with secrets to sell and Reynolds’ newbie agent, tasked with bringing him in when the pros get taken out. The problem is everything else about the story. The tired “the CIA is eeeevil” scenario, cliche supporting characters, and excessively predictable plot are recycled from other movies that weren’t well written either. The coda ending is simply terrible. Good enough to watch, but not good enough to recommend.
2 1/2 stars
One thing I liked and one thing I didn’t like: Reynolds majorly sells pain when his character takes a beating. Our post-movie debate centered on whether the trailer or the casting gave away who the villain was first.