Safe House (Universal)
Rated R for strong violence throughout and some language.
Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Rubén Blades, Nora Arnezeder, Robert Patrick, Liam Cunningham, Joel Kinnaman, Fares Fares, Sebastian Roché.
Written by David Guggenheim.
Directed by Daniel Espinosa.
Ah, the CIA...no other organization is more mysterious, and conveniently full of endless possibilities when it comes to creating the next great spy novel or consequent film adaptation. If we're to believe some of the more outlandish CIA tales seen and heard of late, America's premiere intelligence agency is capable of anything and everything, whether it be good or evil. This brings us to Safe House, the latest piece of CIA fantasy to hit theaters this weekend.
Ryan Reynolds plays CIA agent Matt Weston, a man in charge of a safe house in Johannesburg, South Africa. Weston spends his days in perpetual standby mode, alone in an abandoned hospital facade. Despite his boring detail, Weston enjoys the company of his girlfriend Ana, a beautiful French medical student. Weston's boredom is broken when rogue agent Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is caught trying to give away CIA secrets and is taken to the safe house. Although the safe house is supposed to be a big secret, a sophisticated team of gunmen break in and try to capture Frost and the secrets he keeps. Weston manages to escape with Tobin in time to contact his supervisor Barlow (Brendan Gleeson) for guidance and direction. CIA honcho Harlan Whitford (Sam Shepard) assigns Catherine Linklater (Vera Farmiga) to help Barlow supervise the effort to bring Weston and Frost in.
At every turn, Weston and Frost are greeted by the same elite commando group as they seek refuge, leading them to believe someone on the inside is betraying them.
Weston and Frost end up at another South African safe house in the remote countryside, where they meet in a battle royale with the person who has betrayed their trust.
Safe House is at times an interesting film that starts out at a break-neck pace with a lot of intense action, but sort of fizzles toward the end. It tries real hard to be a 'Bourne" movie and succeeds at first, but doesn't really find its footing after all that impressive action. Reynolds plays the action hero just fine, but Denzel in the only source of star power in the movie, despite the presence of Oscar-caliber performers like Farmiga, Shepard and Gleeson.
Besides the less-than-plausible resolution of the film, Safe House depends on a lot of CIA movie cliches, such as the dependency on corrupt CIA agents and leaders as the primary source of conflict (as if there aren't enough terrorists in the world to keep everybody busy).