Sunday, February 12, 2012
Written by David Guggenheim
Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds and Brendan Gleeson
Tobin Frost: Remember Rule no. 1 - You are responsible for your house guest. I am your house guest.
Despite the title, at no point in time while watching SAFE HOUSE will you feel anything close to safe. Director, Daniel Espinosa, an unproven talent in the industry before now, delivers a non-stop thrill ride that provides Denzel Washington with an all too uncommon role worthy of his weight as an actor and co-star, Ryan Reynolds with an opportunity to step up his sometimes all too easy game. Once the chase is on, it is flat out relentless. By the time you do actually get to catch your breath though, you might wonder if there was any real need for all the fuss.
Washington plays Tobin Frost, a former C.I.A. operative who went rogue years ago and is now one of the most wanted traitors on the American watch list. After acquiring a microchip with naturally damaging information on it, he becomes instant prey around the world, allows himself to be caught and then finds himself in a C.I.A. safe house, which is a holding tank of sorts, awaiting his fate. Reynolds plays Matt Weston, a green C.I.A. operative whose job it is to oversee this safe house in Cape Town, Africa. It sounds important but he hasn’t had a single guest in the year he’s been there. Once the safe house is inevitably compromised, Washington and Reynolds begin a dance that finds them both helping and hindering each other as they try to stay alive together.
In the end, SAFE HOUSE plays too safe a hand. Espinosa plays all his cards properly, including shaky camera, grainy tone and off center framing, all devices that heighten tension and keep the viewer on edge, but it’s an exercise in competency at best. At no point does it elevate to a place of originality, which is also due to the oversimplified plot structure. David Guggenheim, another untested player, has written a script that relies too heavily on the genre’s familiarity to make any part of it necessarily memorable. For instance, we don’t know what’s on this microchip until much later on in the film but it doesn’t even matter what is on it really. All that matters is the chase. Espinosa can keep that chase fast and taut, and this is what makes SAFE HOUSE a pretty safe bet, but once the cat catches the mouse, the game is gone and simply forgotten.