MOVIE REVIEW: SAFE HOUSE
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Screenplay: David Guggenheim
Denzel Washington as Tobin Frost
Ryan Reynolds as Matt Weston
Vera Farmiga as Catherine Linklater
Brendan Gleeson as David Barlow
Sam Shepard as Harlan Whitford
Fares Fares as Emile Vargas
TRT: 115 minutes, (R) for violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language.
Peacock Feathers: 3 1/2 out of 5
By: Marcus Thorpe
Denzel Washington must be one heck of an actor. He did something that has never happened in a movie I have seen in his latest Safe House. He found a way to make me really like a Ryan Reynolds performance! In all seriousness, Safe House is gritty, it’s loud, it’s interesting and it is really good. Of course you should have no doubt that Denzel Washington is going to be able to carry a movie by himself, but Ryan Reynolds really steps up and adds so much to a very strong script and makes this a really fun movie.
Tobin Frost is a man that everybody wants. He has leaked critical information for more than a decade on the highest levels of security in several countries. Matt Weston has dreams of leading CIA teams; instead he is a “Housekeeper.“ He is not going to clean your house, instead he keeps a safe house in South Africa, if the highest levels of security need to hold someone, this is where they go. After months of nothing happening, the phone rings for Matt Weston. They want to transport a suspect that has walked right into an American Consulate, its Tobin Frost. When Frost is brought in by a team and the interrogation process starts, a vigilante group comes knocking too, they want him too. After both teams battle in shootout, Weston knows he has to get out to live, and he decides to get noticed by the higher-ups, he has to secure the package that is Frost. Along the way Weston learns that even though Frost is in handcuffs, he is still very much in charge. Who can he trust, is it the CIA, or should he put his trust in the man who has betrayed his country?
What can you say; Denzel Washington can do it all. Shining in movies like Philadelphia, Hurricane, Malcolm X, Washington has shown that he can still bring it in a physical action movie too. On the heels what might not be huge blockbuster winners in Unstoppable, and The Book of Eli, both of those performances should be recognized for the amazing talent this actor still has. In Safe House, Washington is shot at, chased, in car crashes, and never skips a beat. He tells a story without anything happening around him, then turns it up a notch when the writers and directors ask him to. The mind games his character plays are a perfect fit for Denzel, his eyes, his ticks, he fits perfectly into the smartest man in the room role, and still seems to fit the mold for an action star. It is a great performance. I am not going to lie; Ryan Reynolds doesn’t do anything for me. I always feel like this actor is acting, it just doesn’t look like it comes naturally, or comes off effortless. Finally he gets it right. He doesn’t come off like he is trying too hard, he shows some vulnerability, and strength at the same time. He holds his own face to face with a great actor and doesn’t blink. There are a couple of familiar faces and names playing very supporting roles with Vera Farminga and Brendan Gleeson as CIA big-wigs who try to scramble teams to deal with the situation. You have to love movies that decide to go with a little quality even though it is certainly more expensive in a few of these roles that don’t take top billing. It pays off here, they are both strong, bring something to the war room drama, and they fit in perfectly with the story.
Direction & Writing:
If imitation if the highest form of flattery, then the Bourne series must be pretty proud today. Safe House takes a lot of the same look and action as Bourne did. The fast moving edits, the grainy fight scenes, the jumping from roof top to roof top, and the thing is, it all looks great. Fast and loud, that is the way you can describe basically this whole movie. The script doesn’t lag ever, and there is plenty of conversation. This, in a way, is the thinking man’s action movie. For me the really strong parts are of course the action, but the parts that stick with you, that make you remember it, are the parts where Denzel is mapping out things in his mind and talking through what everyone else is thinking. Kudos to director Daniel Espinosa, this was wall to all action, and when a scene seemed like it was calming down, boom, you get hit from another angle and it picks right back up.
Denzel doesn’t do bad, that is just the way it is. Ryan Reynolds does, seriously have you seen Green Lantern? But here Reynolds plays his best character yet. Likeable, not relying on good looks and muscles but pulling out some real acting chops. I was sucked in from the first minute, and 114 minutes later I was very happy with what I got. Action with a side of smarts, not something you see everyday, but something you wish you saw more of. And Tobin Frost… that is a sweet name!
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