Somewhere along the way, The ‘Spy’ genre was nicely redefined and refitted into a grittier, more ‘believable’ phase. Safe House very capably does its part to continue that excellent trend. The film follows Ryan Reynolds as a low-level government operative tasked with the dull maintenance of a CIA ‘safe house’ in urban Capetown, South Africa. When a treasonous rogue agent, Denzel Washington (playing Denzel Washington), turns himself in, the safe house is activated for the interrogation portion of the custody process. Things go seriously awry when mysterious attackers infiltrate; violently forcing Reynolds and Washington to flee for their lives…whlle trying to piece together the events seemingly conspiring against them. From there, it becomes a ‘cat n mouse’ game of wits and loyalties as the two have to battle not only the goons set upon them, but also each other. The connective tissue for what follows is pure ACTION MOVIE GOODNESS. This flick has almost everything: Bone-crunchingly exciting fistfights, high-speed, desperate car chases, loud, hectic shootouts and a nicely shattering explosion or two. Stylistically, the director clearly took a note or two from the Book of Tony Scott as the editing and shot compositions echo much of Scotts filmography…which is certainly NOT a bad thing…at least where I’m concerned. The filmmakers also made a strong attempt to inject a little ‘realism’ into the proceedings, particularly where many of the ‘human’ reactions were concerned. Something in me appreciates seeing a character actually feel bad for putting a bullet in another human being, it really goes along way to help the viewer sympathize with the protagonist and become invested in their plight and, by default, the story as a whole. Little behavioural touches and reactions from both male leads really helped in boosting the material by adding thin layers of ‘flesh’ to their characters as the story progressed. On the downside, I saw who the ‘surprise twist’ villian was from a mile away. It was projected too clearly too early. The flick also seemed to have a couple more endings then it really needed, but what was presented wasn’t obnoxious and in retrospect, did pull all the strings together well. I found myself appreciating some of the more ‘out of the box’ choices that the script made also, such as setting a major Hollywood action movie in Capetown or having characters get hurt and not just shake it off; pain actually seems like it hurts, by Golly! So if you want a smart, gritty ‘Spy’ movie that could sit alongisde movies like Bourne and (recent) Bond, Haywire and Hanna…while boasting a slew of sweet action scenes and interesting characterizations (not to mention a not-so-subtle critique of the espionage community)…Safe House is a Safe bet.
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