A young CIA agent is tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. But when the safe house is attacked, he finds himself on the run with his charge.
Year 1, Day 180
BEFORE: The post-Christmas films continue as I cross off another of my newly acquired films, Safe House. My main driving force for seeing this film is simply the fact that Denzel Washington (last seen in Flight) has the starring role. I mean the trailer looks good and it should fun to watch but Denzel is just one of those actors that I’ll see any film they’re in. Bonus: the music is by Ramin Djawadi who has composed music for the Game of Thrones TV series and films like Iron Man and the upcoming Pacific Rim.
AFTER: Safe House has a lot of action but it feels bogged down for most of the film. Think of it like one of the Jason Bourne films except the fighting and chase scenes aren’t as suspenseful and the story driving everything lacks interest.
To me, this film seems to have taken most of its inspiration from all the action films we see churned out today with the Bourne trilogy being the most similar. There’s the CIA, rogue operatives in the field, corrupt officials in Langley (CIA headquarters), and a plethora of fight scenes scattered throughout the film almost like mini short films. But where Bourne succeeded, Safe House fails.
Let’s start with the acting and the characters. In Bourne you have Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) as the star, the person carrying the film. But you also have an extremely strong supporting cast that really help make the film appealing including Chris Cooper and Brian Cox as the CIA executives in The Bourne Identity and David Strathairn and Joan Allen as the Deputy Directors in The Bourne Ultimatum. In Safe House, you have the ex-CIA operative Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) and that’s pretty much it. Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) who is the other lead and the “hero” of the film doesn’t do a great job at selling this inexperienced agent wanting to make a name for himself. And the people in Langley aren’t that interesting either with Linklater (Vera Farmiga) and Barlow (Brendan Gleeson - last seen in Braveheart) being kind of dull and boring as far as CIA agents go. Besides Tobin Frost, the other characters didn’t have any wow-factor to them that made me want to believe in them and care about what happened to them.
And that leads into the story, or rather the strong focus on action. With The Bourne Identity et al., those films had an extremely fascinating story: there’s this guy who’s lost his memory and wants to figure out who he is and what he’s done. The strong point of those films wasn’t the action, it was the emotions Jason Bourne was going through figuring out who he is. In Safe House the entire story is Matt Weston baby sitting Tobin Frost and by the way, there’s corruption in the CIA but that’s not really important until the last act. But just because there’s no interest or excitement in the story, that doesn’t mean the film has lost all its appeal - it can still make up for it with great action and effects (see: Transformers: Dark of the Moon). But even there Safe House isn’t that exciting. All the fist-fights, gun battles, and car chases don’t have anything unique to make them suspenseful or engaging. The Bourne films had a cleverness to them using the environment to the advantage and the Transformers films had the gigantic fighting robots. Safe House just blends in with the excess of these types of films that come out today.
I said in the beginning my main reason for watching Safe House was Denzel Washington and for that reason alone I found Safe House to be somewhat entertaining. Washington really does steal the show and knock his performance of Tobin Frost out of the park. But everything else about the film - the other characters, the story, the fights - all leave something to be desired. It’s not horrible, but when you have a lot of other options to choose from in this day and age, Safe House doesn’t have anything to standout from the others and falls flat in comparison.
RATING: 3 out of 5