out of Five
Running time: 115
Enjoyable, fast-paced thriller with terrific action sequences and strong performances from the two leads, but it's also slightly too long and let down by some annoyingly guessable plot twists.
What's it all about?
Directed by Daniel Espinosa, Safe House is set in Cape Town and stars Ryan Reynolds as Matt Weston, a low-level agent who, unbeknownst to his local girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder) is in charge of looking after the frequently empty Cape Town safe house. So when wanted rogue agent-slash-gifted manipulator Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) gets himself arrested in Cape Town, Matt is tasked with looking after him after he arrives at the safe house for interrogation.
However, Frost has barely had time to be water-boarded, before the safe house is attacked and Matt is forced to take his captive on the run with him, dodging all manner of gun wielding thugs and maintaining contact with his CIA handler (Brendon Gleeson) and various bosses (Sam Shepard, Vera Farmiga) back in Langley, Virginia. And when Matt realises that there's a mole in the ranks, he works out that Frost must have something that both sides desperately want and will stop at nothing to get their hands on.
Espinosa directs with a strong sense of pace, ensuring that the film is essentially a never-ending series of chase scenes, occasionally punctuated with a punch-up or a shoot-out. As such, the action sequences are excitingly shot, while the close-quarters fight scenes have a thrillingly physical quality that is reminiscent of the Bourne movies.
Washington is excellent as the borderline sociopath, but Reynolds is particularly impressive, ditching his trade-marked wise-cracking screen persona in order to deliver something more serious and engaging. The film is also strikingly shot, with Oliver Wood's cinematography making strong use of the film's refreshingly different Cape Town locations (most notably during a roof-top chase that forms one of the film's set-pieces).
The main problem with the film is that the various plot twists are entirely guessable (one supposedly shocking moment failed to elicit a single gasp at a packed press screening), while it's also fair to say that the film runs out of steam towards the end and should probably have been around 15 minutes shorter. Similarly, the female characters are painfully, almost embarrassingly underwritten, which is doubly frustrating, particularly if you're a fan of Vera Farmiga.
Despite some predictability problems, Safe House is an enjoyable, fast moving thriller that's notable for its thrilling action scenes, strong performances and unusual location work. Worth seeing.