When in Manila and you’re looking for action, then action is what you will get from Safe House. The action thriller leads you to a long, violent journey of protecting and finding the truth, highlighted by hideous face-punching, neck-breaking, body-assailing and a lot of chasing and running.
Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) was a novice CIA operative. Tired of overseeing an empty safe house in Cape Town, South Africa, Matt wanted a better, more gratifying assignment. Abruptly, his monotonous, lifeless days at the safe house were ended when the CIA agent-turned-traitor, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), was captured and brought under Matt’s watch. And soon, he found himself on the loose with his guest after a group of gunmen took down the safe house. Bringing the guest out of the gunmen’s reach and to another safe house could have been Matt’s perfect opportunity to prove himself.
Safe House ushers the audience to an intense, action-filled plot based on one premise: enemies on the run together. The two obviously are opposites—one a rookie CIA agent gunning for one good opportunity to move up the ranks; the other an ex-CIA agent, experienced and brilliant, who sold out top CIA information and who was about to change everything the rookie agent knew about the CIA. The audience is left to witness how the two would win over the gunmen and over each other, and is eventually treated to a series of twists and turns that should have been surprising but is not.
The persistent question here is, who had the ability to send an omnipresent group of rogues after Tobin? With the general structure of the plot, that’s easy to answer, and you could pretty much guess in which direction the movie is flowing. Generally, the movie suffers from predictability, which you could sense from the trailer alone.
But the saving grace of Safe House is not in how it is plotted but in how invested it is in its two main characters—their evolution, their differences, and their struggle for the truth. The characters are partly the reason for the movie’s predictability, but they nonetheless lent the movie its needed texture, with the movie’s overarching feel being the deep need of Tobin to do what he was doing and the initial bewilderment and the eventual determination of Matt to do what he needed to.
The dialogues have little to do with the success of the characters. Bluntly, it has everything to do with the portrayal. Denzel and Ryan definitely understood who their characters were.
Of course, there is no question about Denzel’s ability to deliver. With maturity and depth of a seasoned actor, Denzel sketched a character that was as dangerous as he was intriguing. Whether he was giving a sly or gentle smile, a sharp or kind look, he was someone you would want to hate but who pulled you in by his mysteriously contained spite.
Ryan tried to keep up with, if not match, Denzel’s brilliance, and he consistently did so. Into the first few minutes of the movie, Ryan made his character more relatable, especially when he showed how an inexperienced agent struggled in a career-defining situation he desperately needed but didn’t quite know how to manage. Ryan, like his character, was giving all he’s got.
Amidst the intoxicating fights and deaths, which you may or may not enjoy depending on your tolerance for sight of bloody faces and sound of gun shots, Safe House proves to be a decent action movie, arguably banking on Denzel’s stardom and how he would make an on-screen partnership with his younger co-lead. While it doesn’t have all the makings of an “action movie of the year,” it has a pretty nice kick and can lay the groundwork for a successful reception for the action genre this year.
Safe House opens February 10, 2012