Safe House

13 02 2012

Wikileaks has been in the news a lot lately, but have you ever wondered where that info comes from? Have you thought about the stories behind each and every data leak? Hollywood sure did.

The actual stories of data leaks are rarely exciting: an angry employee put some files on a USB stick and took it home. Nobody gets killed, goes on a dangerous car chase, or gets yelled at by Denzel Washington. Instead, that angry employee just gets fired. Good luck making a movie out of that.


Ryan Reynolds wears that hoodie for the WHOLE movie

As clever readers may have guessed, all of those things do happen in Safe House, which features Ryan Reynolds as CIA agent Matt Weston. Matt is on the bottom rung of the CIA ladder: he is well-educated, but lacks the field experience that he needs to get a promotion. It’s a struggle that will sound familiar to many recent university graduates.

As such, Matt is stuck guarding a lonely CIA safe house in Johannesburg. This is a boring posting, because safe houses are generally only used to interrogate high-profile targets who have been captured nearby. Matt spends most of his workday bouncing a ball against the wall, praying for something exciting to happen.

Fortunately for Matt, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) walks through the door of the safe house one day, escorted by several heavily armed CIA agents. Frost is an ex-agent who turned rogue and started leaking sensitive data onto the black market, and he’s on every intelligence agency’s most-wanted list.

He is also known as an expert manipulator and is one of those guys who always seems to be armed and dangerous – even when he’s handcuffed to a chair and doesn’t have a weapon.


Ready to kill

Frost has just come into possession of a microchip worth millions of dollars. It contains sensitive data that bad guys are willing to pay millions of dollars for. These bad guys somehow find the location of the safe house and attempt to set Frost free.

As CIA agents rush to defend the safe house, Matt stays behind to guard Frost. As the rookie CIA agent, Matt is clearly intimidated by Frost’s presence, while Frost sees Matt as a pawn that he can use to break out of jail. In just a few minutes, Frost has not only formed a bond with Matt (without Matt even realizing it), but he has also secured his release.

After the pair flee the safe house, Matt must protect Frost until his fellow agents can provide backup. Since the bad guys knew the location of the first safe house, there are no safe places to hide, and it becomes a game of cat-and-mouse.

Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington are very good as the lead roles. Denzel Washington has his usual “don’t mess with me” persona about him, but it fits perfectly with the character. Meanwhile, Ryan Reynolds and his puppy dog eyes are equally as suited to his role as Matt, the inexperienced-but-willing-to-learn CIA agent.

One problem I had with Safe House was that its storytelling seemed a bit off. The plot isn’t very complex, but it does have some twists along the way. These twists are revealed bluntly, with little lead-in or follow-up. While I wouldn’t say the plot is predictable, the twists are executed so poorly that it becomes tough to care about the characters involved.

This problem, combined with an annoying misuse of the shaky camera effect during action sequences, detracts from an otherwise decent movie.

Ultimately, Safe House doesn’t offer anything new to the international espionage genre. It’s good, but not great, and I felt like I was watching a shameless knockoff of the Bourne movies at times. However, with good action movies becoming increasingly rare, Safe House is certainly above-average.

3.5 stars out of 5