Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Movie Review: Safe House

I walked in to Safe House expecting a spy movie with a little bit of complexity to the plot and great deal of action, along the lines of a Jason Bourne type of movie. Instead, I got the spy version of the first Terminator film and I LOVED IT!!! It was amazing. By the end of the film, I was almost as exhausted as the main characters.

The plot of the film is simple enough. A rogue agent, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), is brought into a CIA safe house for interrogation. When the safe house is attacked, the housekeeper, Matt Ryan (Ryan Reynolds), is forced to go on the run, with Frost in tow. The rest of the film is an almost never ending battle, where the opponents & type of battle changes, but the battle keeps going.

The beauty of an action oriented spy film is that the normal rules of an action movie don't apply. It's not the most badass person that wins, it's the person who has the most information and applies their intelligence in the best way possible. So in a movie like Safe House, it is essential to cast actors that can portray that kind of meta-level thinking that would be second nature to a spy. Casting Denzel Washington was nothing less than a master stroke on the part of director, Daniel Espinosa. When it comes to portraying intelligent characters on screen, Denzel is among my top 5 choices. And his performance in Safe House is a testament to that choice.

The surprise choice for me was Ryan Reynolds. When it comes to witty, sarcastic comedy, there is NO ONE better that Ryan Reynolds. And while that kind of wit demands a higher than average intelligence, I don't really think of him when it comes to dramatic or action based stories. The fact that he played so well in the film and held his own against Denzel on screen is a testament to the craft Reynolds has learned. His range is expanding and I'm looking forward to seeing his next dramatic role.

There isn't a way to discuss the plot without giving away key details, but the story is top notch. The film maintains a high level of intensity even as it switches from gun battles to car chases to verbal jousting and back. Espinosa's directing adds a depth to that intensity with the visceral nature of his shots. It makes the movie one HELL of a ride.

If you're looking for a heavy, character based, suspense thriller about the spy world, I would DEFINITELY recommend Safe House. 

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