It seems only fair to see a dick-flick after having recommended rom-coms for Valentine’s Day. And did I pick a winner–my husband gave it a 10, which is very rare for him. The movie is “Safe House” and it stars and is produced by the exceptional Denzel Washington.
No ordinary action-pic–although it has ample car chases, staccato bursts of exploding bombs, violent fights with guns and knives, and impossible jumps from one rooftop to another–there are still enough surprising plot twists to keep you surprised throughout.
The story is fairly routine–I think Bruce Willis starred in a similar plot in “16 Blocks” –an ex-CIA operative gone rogue (Denzel Washington as Tobin Frost) and a clueless “nube” as the novice CIA agent, Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) who has to guard Frost in a safe house and bring him to headquarters (to report to bureaucrats played by Sam Shephard, Vera Farmiga, and Brendan Gleeson). An extremely difficult task for Matt since Tobin is captured in South Africa, and Matt has only been assigned there for little more than one year.
Denzel Washington superbly underplays his character, allowing his face to communicate what his life as a CIA agent must have been like. Matt doesn’t know whom to believe, but has respect for authority and for the CIA’s integrity. This film is part “Bourne Identity” and part Frontline’s “Dark Side” fictionalized. As the viewer you will be reminded of quite a few spy thrillers especially Jack Ryan in Tom Clancy-based film blockbusters. The cinematography is several magnitudes better than the usual special effects. One helicopter shot of their SUV speeding down a desolate road is a work of art, a beautiful abstract print in still motion.
What did I like best about this movie? I wouldn’t give it a 10, but a much-better-than-average 8-to-8.5. It comes down to character development–and though this is first and foremost a guy’s action-packed blockbuster, there is something for the rest of us. What do people sacrifice in service to the government that others don’t know about and don’t care to know anything about? Furthermore, when does that well-intentioned agent say “enough is enough” in a heroic exculpatory act in the name of his or her own integrity and personal life? (Think “Fair Game” reviewed November 28, 2010). This film tries to deal with these questions–and it is superior to “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” as well as others in this genre. A superb cast actualizes the promise of the tale. The ending sets up the audience to expect a sequel and with this first narrative, I hope there is one.