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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 21, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Accent

‘Safe House’: Thriller lacks potent impact

“Safe House” may seize the interest of thriller fans with handsome spies, fast action scenes, and a beautiful location. But with its predictable redundant formula and dizzying camera work, the excitement doesn’t get very far after leaving the safe house that the film is based on.
Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is trapped in a dead-end CIA job maintaining a safe house in Cape Town, South Africa. He spends his days pleading with his handler David Barlow (Brendan Gleeson) for a more action-packed assignment. Weston’s wish is granted after the U.S. government apprehends Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), a rogue CIA agent and master of psychological manipulation. After a team of agents brings Frost to Weston’s safe house for torture and interrogation, Frost’s old enemies attack the house.
The actors playing the protagonists perform within their comfort zones. Washington is once again ice cold, bringing his intimidating and uncompromising attitude that made him famous in “Remember the Titans” and “Man on Fire” to the role. He is sinisterly quiet and calm as he plucks the emotional strings of amateur agents, but demonstrates refined, humanizing emotion when more of his life is revealed throughout the story. The younger Reynolds demonstrates an ability to depict the emotion behind a bored, confident, naive amateur in the beginning and a terrified agent who actually has to prove his worth once the action  ramps up. These polarized characters and the actors portraying them bring together a sort of buddy-cop cooperation as their relationship evolves throughout the film.
The beginning of Weston’s adventure holds the most excitement throughout the film because it places  intense focus almost solely on him. Soon after director Daniel Espinosa establishes Weston’s dissatisfaction, he pulls no punches and sweeps Weston into a James Bond nightmare. He faces gun battles, car chases and the dark underbelly of international espionage with threadbare support from his home office. While the situation is nerve-racking enough, Weston faces these trials while keeping in custody a super-spy who ceaselessly undermines his focus while plotting against him. Frost smiles and tells Weston how much he loves the thrill while forcing the inexperienced Weston to play a high-stakes, life-threatening spy game against many opponents.
After that point, the plot becomes predictable and bland. “Safe House” reveals itself to be a wannabe “Bourne” movie with frequent action scenes and plots involving corrupt government workers.
Espinosa effectively presents these elements of the spy thriller. For the most part though, they can feel rather dull, except for a few instances when Frost shows a little creativity and tactical superiority over his opponents. Additionally, the predictability of the falling action and resolution dampens the hyped excitement with its obvious hinting.
“Safe House” may falter in its execution and have a bland storyline, but it can still entertain die-hard espionage fans waiting for the next James Bond or Jason Bourne movie.