Thursday, February 9, 2012

Safe House [2012]

Director: Daniel Espinosa
Cast: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard
Genre: Action/Thriller
Rating: Teen
Excerpt: "A top notch Action flick, although perhaps a little lacking in the Thriller department..."

Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) tries his best to lead as normal a life as possible with his girlfriend in Cape Town, South Africa. But working in a volatile environment with the CIA, even from behind a desk, he has to continuously lie to her and himself in order to keep up the facade. Meanwhile, a rouge agent by the name of Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) who has been off the radar for nearly a decade suddenly shows up, and turns himself in to the US consulate in Cape Town, bringing along with him a secret so great, no loss of life is too costly for the CIA to recover it.

What to Expect
1. Tons of bangs and booms
2. Anybody could die
3. Uh-mazing car chases
4. Elaborate, exhilarating fight scenes

What NOT to Expect
1. Denzel Washington's character to get hurt (But that's good)
2. An elaborate thriller
Very very entertaining, especially for fans of the Action genre
I believe after Relationship Status [2012], this review took me the longest to complete. Granted, for some parts it's because I've been procrastinating. But mostly it's because I've grown so accustomed to writing relatively lengthy reviews, anything less than four long paragraphs is unacceptable. I couldn't quite figure out the angle from which I'd tackle this review, and I almost passed up on it altogether. But then I figured it's unfair to not at least say something about the movie because it was pretty damn good. So here goes.

I'll just be honest and say that I've never heard of the movie until the premiere passes were offered on Nuffnang. So I went into it with no idea of what to expect, but something about the poster got me believing that it's going to be a thriller. Well, it kind of was, but as far as thrillers go, Safe House did almost nothing that the Jason Bourne movies haven't done before.

But no, that's not a flaw. Not necessarily.

For starters, there's Denzel Washington...
Safe House was an Action movie beautifully made, catering to those who like badass fight scenes (like myself), shootouts, as well as those who get a kick out of watching car chases, which I'm not that big a fan of. But even though I'm not that appreciative of car stunts, I must say the ones featured in this movie might have revitalised my interest in the whole thing. The last time a car chase sequence kept me on the edge of my seat was from Ronin [1998]. That was not an exaggeration.

I might need a second viewing if I were to find out why I felt that the car chases were genuinely suspenseful, but if I have to take a guess right now, I believe it's because they seemed real (enough), and because director Daniel Espinosa didn't seem like a graduate from the Michael Bay Film School.

From my I Am Number Four [2011] review...
Simply put, if you're expecting a spy movie, what you'll get instead is a movie where the bulk of its budget was spent on wrecking cars and shooting fake bullets. Not that it didn't try to rise above the genre. While the thriller part of the movie wouldn't make you gasp, it does not mean that this is one of those movies where they just slapped the action sequences around a flimsily-written story.

I would say that there was enough writing going on to leave you guessing where the story is going until seconds before things happen. I'm not trying to shortchange the screenwriter, of course. All I'm saying is that, as substantial as the subject matter was, it seemed like they were more intent on dazzling us with the action sequences. But that wasn't a bad thing at all. It was badass, worthy of having Denzel Washington in the top billing.

Speaking of Denzel Washington, that brings us to the acting part. As always, Denzel Washington is still as cool as ever, playing a rouge CIA agent who's morally ambiguous. Which was a nice touch because this time around they didn't opt for the "one man army fighting a corrupt government" approach. I felt like more could have been done with the character, but they didn't, therefore much of the emotion in the movie came from Ryan Reynolds.

He did good. It didn't come as a surprise to me because I believe that Reynolds has already proven that he is a better actor than his abs; Check out Buried [2010] to know what I mean. Still, after Green Lantern, it's nice to see him flex his acting muscles one more time, while simultaneously kick ass in beautifully choreographed fight sequences.

Bottom line, while Safe House may seem like a one dimensional action flick, I felt like it was a proper direction for the action genre to take now that going Rambo isn't going to cut it anymore. There was a teensy bit of humour, a couple of hooks and red herrings to throw you off, and a fuckload of action that's very very satisfying to watch.

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