February 13, 2012

Movie Review: Safe House

I had some hopes for Safe House. The cast looked solid with the likes of Washington, Reynolds, Gleeson, and Farmiga, the Bourne-esque appearance of the story seemed pretty solid, and it looked to have a nice a nice gritty feel to it. So, now I have to ask: What happened? Seriously. The movie just goes nowhere. I did not feel any reason to care about the characters and it looks like it was shot by Tony Scott hopped up on caffeine. Still, believe it or not, it is not all bad. The movie does have enough flash and action to keep me entertained for the duration and it was sort of interesting to watch these actors try to bring some life to the mediocre screenplay. I suspect if they went straight for the B list, this would have been a lot more entertaining.

The trailers made it feel a bit more epic than it turned out to be. I was expecting there to be some sort of relationship development between Washington and Reynolds, but it was not to be. All of the characters are pretty much what you see is what you get, nothing more, nothing less. As soon as I knew there was a conspiracy, it was pretty easy to figure out who the root of it was, and I am usually terrible at these sorts of things. Actually, if you look at the recognizable names in the cast and they way they act, it was pretty simple to point out who it was. However, I am getting ahead of myself.

As the movie opens we are introduced to Matt Weston (for a brief second I thought I was going to find a way to tie this into Burn Notice, but it was not to be), portrayed by Ryan Reynolds (who seems to be getting the same shirtless clause that Matthew McConaughey gets). Weston is an untested CIA operative charged with manning a safe house in Cape Town, South Africa. He spends his days bored out of his mind just waiting for something to happen, frequently checking in with a senior agent named David Barlow (Brendan Gleeson) about a more exciting assignment, which does not seem to be coming.

After this introduction we are told of Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington). Frost was a top CIA agent who went rogue some ten-years earlier. He has been labeled a traitor and is sought by agencies around the world. As this story begins, Frost is being chased through the streets of Cape Town, that is until he turns himself in at the American Embassy. Now we all have to start wondering why.

Well, Frost is taken to Weston's safe house where a team proceeds to try to extract information from him. That doesn't go well as a team f armed men show up and shoot the place to pieces. Weston escapes with Frost and no they are on the run.

What follows the introductions and the fights is a pair of agents on the run being sought by just about everyone. Weston is expected to follow protocol, Frost is going to look for a way out. However, for some reason they keep running into each other. Weston because he is trying to prove himself and Frost, well, I am not sure. He just seems to always be around.

There are near catches, shootouts, fist fights, and car chases galore. The problem is that the movie feels lazy. The characters never really grow from where they are at the start. I would expect there to be some sort of growth as the characters feel each other out and let their motives be known. Sadly, there really is none of that. Everyone fits in the standard CIA movie cliches and move along their designated paths to the predictable climax.

Safe House is exciting, sure, so long as you stick to the surface. Beyond the surface you are faced with the Macguffin, some nearly incomprehensible action, and some good to excellent actors doing their best to convincingly sleepwalk through the story. While I was entertained in the theater, the more I consider it, the more it doesn't really hold up. I am sure an argument could be made for cinematic depth, but it would be nothing more than trying to justify it.

I hoped, but it did not pay off. It is far from the worst movie I have seen, but it is one that I feel could have been a lot stronger had they actually developed it somewhat and actually let the action be scene.

Mildly Recommended.

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