By Monte Lazarus
Denzel Washington is, well, Denzel Washington. He’s one of those rare actors who never seem to give a bad performance no matter the plot or script. In “Safe House” he’s Tobin Frost, a cool, cynical ex-CIA agent who is viewed by the Agency as having gone rogue. There’s no particular reason given for his apparent defection. Was it money? If not, what else?
The film opens with magnificent views of Capetown, South Africa, but it doesn’t take too long for action to explode and continue through the film. Newly acclaimed Swedish director Daniel Espinosa (curious Swedish name!) proves to be a master at staging the close-up action scenes that follow the tranquil opening.
Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a young CIA agent improbably recruited from Yale Law School. He’s apparently reached a dead end at the Agency rather quickly since he’s been languishing as a kind of housemother at a safe house in Capetown. No one has used it and Matt passes his days idly in the safe house while romancing an attractive French lady at night.
Frost is suddenly being tailed by a horde of sinister characters and, after a harrowing escape, surrenders himself to the United States Embassy. He’s sneaked over to the safe house where he is tortured (yes, waterboarded) in an effort to get him to spill whatever he’s hiding. Unfortunately for everyone the safe house is raided and the U.S. agents are massacred, except for Frost and Matt Weston.
The rest of the movie is taken up by various attacks and escapes, and the final bonding of Frost and Matt. The twists and turns of the plot along with the non-stop action keep the viewer riveted, even though there are the usual quirks in most action oriented flicks (example: where do all those cars come from?). There’s a lot of fine acting, not only by Washington and Reynolds, but Vera Famigna and the rest of an excellent cast.
Yes, the movie may leave you with a jaundiced view of CIA, but what else is new?