Archive Review – “Safe House” (Director: Daniel Espinosa)

Review first published 25/02/12

Safe House

Matt Weston is a CIA operative on assignment in South Africa.  He has been passed over for promotion and sees no escape from the daily routine of being the caretaker of his “Safe House” facility.  Unexpectedly, Weston’s routine is broken by the arrival of a new “House Guest” – former CIA agent and traitor Tobin Frost.

Frost isn’t the only new visitor to the Safe House as a group of mercenaries seeking Frost attack the facility for some information he holds.  Now, Weston must go on the run with Frost in a game where he doesn’t know whether the traitor is a man who he is obliged to protect or the people who give him his orders.

I had really high hopes for this film based the trailer, especially as Denzel Washington is not only leading the cast but is also one of the Exec Producers of “Safe House”.  Unfortunately, the script by David Guggenheim follows the convention of  a young “green as grass” operative is forced to ally himself with a man of questionable motives.

Lead actors Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds provide solid performances in their roles of Frost and Weston respectively.  However, the relationship between the two men isn’t given much room to be explored, which is a shame because I felt that there could have been greater depth to the “Is Frost manipulating Weston or is he protecting him?” plot strand.

Instead, we have a plot that moves along pretty predictably and with no feeling of threat to the characters, except at the obvious point near the end of the film.

The two leads  are supported by some very good actors, again, playing predictable roles including Brendan Gleeson as Weston’s CIA mentor alongside Vera Farmiga and Sam Sheppard as high level CIA operatives – who all basically argue amongst themselves as to whether Weston has been turned by Frost.

There is also a relationship interest between Weston and his girlfriend, Ana, portrayed by Nora Arnezeder.  However, this is pretty much sidelined and I didn’t feel any real bond between the two characters.

The direction by Daniel Espinosa is pretty much standard action film fare with quick cutting, fight scenes, car chases and lots of running around.  It was a pity that the quieter moments couldn’t have been given more room to breathe so we could have had more of a psychological edge to the film especially as the character of Frost is known to his former CIA employers as a man who knows how people tick.

Safe House is an okay film to watch, but it takes few risks and ploughs the same furrow which have been done edgier such as The Bourne film franchise or previous Denzel Washington offerings such as the excellent “Man On Fire”.  With a bolder script, this film could have elevated itself from a generic popcorn film to something more interesting.

Rating: 3/5

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