SWEDISH director, Daniel Espinosa’s new action thriller Safe House, certificate 15 is a post Bourne action thriller with explosive stunts and action sequences. The film has all the testosterone of the Jason Bourne series but little of their intelligence.
Ryan Reynolds stars as the films central protagonist, Matt Weston, an inexperienced but ambitious CIA agent. Weston is assigned as a ‘house-keeper’ of a CIA safe house in Cape Town, South Africa. He yearns for more field experience, telling his boss: “How am I supposed to get more experience by staring at four walls all day?”
His gets more than he bargains for when Tobin Frost, played by Denzel Washington is sent to Weston’s safe house. Frost is a former CIA agent turned international terrorist, who trades state secrets on the black market. He is awaiting transfer to the United States after turning himself into an American consulate, after an ambush by a mercenary group.
When the safe house is attacked by the same group, Weston and Frost flee the scene. As the two physically and mentally confront each other, Reynolds’ character uncovers a web of conspiracy that makes him question his loyalty to his employers, in his attempts to bring Tobin Frost back in.
Throughout the film, Reynolds holds his own as a physical actor, convincing throughout the film’s action sequences. It is a relatively new genre for an actor more associated with comedy roles but over recent years the actor has shown great competence as a lead within the action genre, including the 2011 superhero film, The Green Lantern.
Unsurprisingly Denzel Washington steals the show, chewing the scenery throughout. He has a fantastic onscreen presence, giving a performance not dissimilar to his role in Tony Scott’s 2004 thriller, Man on Fire. In one scene early on, his character undergoes a water-boarding interrogation, a technique that simulates the sensation of drowning on an individual. To add a sense of realism to the sequence the actor underwent the procedure.
Espinosa has assembled a strong supporting cast, including Robert Patrick and Irish Actors, Brendan Gleeson and Liam Cunningham. Brendan Gleeson’s attempt at an American accent is slightly dubious as he plays Reynolds’ boss, Daniel Kiefer. Vera Farmiga is the most notable female actress in the film’s densely male populated cast. She may be familiar to some from her Performance as Madolyn in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed.
Admittedly the film’s plot becomes a little formulaic and predictable, its plot twists will not surprise many viewers. The director, making his first film outside of his native Sweden, shows considerable talent and competency in handling the film’s action sequences and set pieces.
At just under two hours the film zips along nicely without really sagging and feels like a condensed version of TV drama 24. It is a solid entry into the action genre with a great cast but it is let down by its weak and predictable script.