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February 12, 2012


Capsule Movie Review – Safe House (2012)


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.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aaron Ploof
    Feb 13 2012

    Hey, Helen, long time no talk! I went to see this movie on a date on Saturday. It was bland and predictable, as you said it was.

  2. Feb 13 2012

    Hi Aaron, nice to have you back! Yeah, the actors made it seem better than it was while it was playing, but the writing doesn’t hold up at all.

  3. Aaron
    Feb 13 2012

    I saw The Grey the next day. Way better.

  4. Feb 14 2012

    I hear that The Grey is terrific. And if it really is, then I’d like it even more because I haven’t watched its trailer. :O)

  5. Feb 14 2012

    I’ve seen the trailer for “The Grey” way too many times but I’d still like to see it after all the good reviews.

  6. Feb 14 2012

    You see the perks of not watching TV? :O)

  7. Feb 15 2012

    The funny thing is, I don’t watch TV. I gave it up about six years ago after I got fed up with the commercials, the incessant scheduling games, and the series I liked always getting cancelled mid-season. So all those times seeing the trailer was because I go to the movies too much. :D

  8. Richard Winters
    Feb 15 2012

    And here I thought I was the only one who didn’t watch television. I haven’t watched a current show on network television since the first season of ‘Apprentice’, which was about 7 years ago. I only watch football on TV and that’s it. Good going Helen. I don’t think you are missing anything. The commercials are getting more and more obnoxious with each passing year!

  9. Feb 16 2012

    I, too haven’t watched TV in over 7 years. It’s the commercials, the fact that 95% of the shows are crap, the incessant laugh tracks, etc. I watch HBO, Showtime, and FX series and I do it from the comfort of my computer. I also upload most episodes onto my PS3 via USB stick and watch them on my 42″ plasma screen. 0_<

    Right now I'm watching BBC's Misfits and Luther and those shows are terrific. And I also, very highly recommend Sherlock. It's one of the best shows I've seen in many years. :O)

  10. Richard Winters
    Feb 16 2012

    Yeah, just about all my viewing these days is on my computer. I like streaming movies from Netflix as well as Amazon. People complain about Netflix because there aren’t enough recent releases, but to tell you the truth that is why I like it. They have alot of old movies on there that can be hard to find as well as some movies that have never even been released onto DVD or VHS. Amazon has some obscure ones too that can be a nice surprise. Hulu has a good selection of TV shows to watch too and most of them are free, or for a nominal fee although I don’t know if that is available in Canada or not.

  11. Feb 16 2012

    Criterion also rents movies, I think they’re $5 each. I could be wrong. You can check out their website.

    And Netflix US is rather impressive. Canada’s Netflix has existed for less than 2 years, maybe even less than a year, and we don’t have any new releases at all. So you [Americans] can be proud of your achievement. :O)

  12. Richard Winters
    Feb 16 2012

    Are you saying that Criterion streams movies on their site? If so I will have to check that out when I get home. Our Netflix may be better, but you guys get the free healthcare and at this point I might actually go with that.

    Also, another TV series you may like is ‘The Prisoner’ with Patrick McGoohan. There are only 17 episodes. My Brother got me the box set for Christmas and I have been watching some. They are unique and interesting. It’s considered a classic.

  13. Mar 10 2012

    The last time I visited the Criterion website I noticed the word “streaming” was displayed somewhere. I just dug deeper into it and found that you can stream every Criterion released film through Netflix.

    And you’re right about the free health care but the price of certain medication still kicks our asses.

    And I used to watch The Prisoner when I was a kid. The bubble thing that came out of the ocean, chased Number Six (McGoohan) down the beach, and enveloped him has always creeped me out. I’d consider it a classic show, as well.

    As of late, my favourite TV show has become Columbo but I will always stand behind Deadwood as the greatest TV show of all time.

    But now we’re waaaaay off topic…

  14. May 28 2012

    I finally watched this film a couple of days ago and felt mostly bored throughout it. The film lacks a story, characters or any potential development, has shootouts that are pointless because exposition detailing plot outlines is missing, and all that this film has to offer is two of Hollywood’s most famous actors in a gritty-looking film.

    There aesthetics of the film contain terrible green and yellow filters that saturate the film so heavily that most visual detail are missing, unless an actor’s face is in close-up and is motionless.

    I hate the look of the film because it’s too dark, I hate that there isn’t a single character I can root for because the screenwriter forgot to include characters with backgrounds and also a story to throw them into, and I hate that the film is hugely predictable from he first 30 minutes and is 112 minutes long.

    I find this to be a terrible film that’s even worse than generic Tony Scott actioners.

  15. May 29 2012

    Disagree on the cinematography. The distorted coloration is a visual expression of the waking nightmare that Reynolds’ character is experiencing. However, the movie as a whole is too negligible to argue over.

  16. May 29 2012

    Agreed. lol

  17. Nuel
    Feb 19 2013

    They mentioned a bleach anime (a japanese animation series) content in the film and I’ve tried to find it out but no luck….Wonder if u could help me with that?

  18. Feb 20 2013

    @Nuel, I don’t know why Bleach is credited and after a few minutes of research, in which I found that you’re not the only one that’s noticed that credit, I can only assume that it has something to do with a deleted scene. No one seems to recall seeing or hearing anything from the anime so maybe it’s in the deleted scenes section of the DVD or Blu-ray. Hope this helps!