During one of the special features on the blu-ray, Director Danny Espinosa comments about how he had always heard about “safe houses” in thriller films and wanted to do a film about them. Not exactly shooting for the stars! Safe House is routine action-thriller with a strong cast but a predictable script.
Matt Weston (Reynolds) is a young, low-level agent assigned to a safe house in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s boring work and Ryan pleads with his superior David Barlow (Gleeson) for an assignment with action. Little does he know that the assignment of a lifetime is about to walk through his door. Tobin Frost (Washington) is an ex CIA Agent who went rogue a decade earlier and is accused of selling sensitive information. After acquiring information from a renegade MI6 agent, Frost is pursued by a group of assassins and his only recourse is to turn himself in to the American Consulate in South Africa for safety.
An interrogation team takes Frost to the Safe House to grill him on his activities when the house is attacked by the same group of mercenaries/assassins. With the Interrogation team killed, Weston has to escape with Frost and put his trust in this man who may or may not be his enemy. As they avoid the mercenaries, they soon come to the realization that there is someone working on the inside to make sure they don’t survive and pass along Frost’s damaging information.
Despite Espinosa’s infatuation with safe houses, only a small part of the film takes us inside these secretive abodes. Instead, Espinosa relies on one chase after another, by foot and by car. Every time they seem to have lost their pursuers, their respite is brief but while we all know there is obviously someone close working against them, they take far longer to figure it out. Espinosa makes little attempt to toss out a red herring or two and you know early on that the traitor is one of two people. There’s little suspense in seeing the game of cat and mouse play out for nearly two hours.
Espinosa keeps the action to a frenetic pace because he has very little to say about any of the characters. While Reynolds’ character gets some token padding, Frost remains as much a mystery at the end as he was at the beginning. Denzel is one of the great actors of our era but there’s little that even he can do with a character so poorly written. We never find out what motivated him to go rogue and why, when he had a chance to get a way cleanly, he continued to aid Weston. It was a cheesy way to give the film a happy ending but hardly befitting a character who is described as one of the most dangerous agents in the CIA. Reynolds is still hard to believe in a more series action role. I look at him and still see Van Wilder but he’s getting better.
Safe House has a solid cast and is action-packed from opening to ending credits but just don’t expect anything too compelling or suspenseful.
Making Safe House (11:16) – Typical making of featurette with behinds the scenes footage, interviews with cast and the Director.
Hand to Hand Action (7:54) – Looks at the film’s fight sequences and fight coordination.
Shooting the Safe House Attack (5:17) – A short look at the breach of the safe house by the mercenaries
Building the Roof Top Chase (3:59) – An actual replica of a shacktown was built for this chase sequence.
Behind the Action (8:00) – A closer look at the stunts in the film
Inside the CIA (6:07) – Capturing the look of an actual CIA strategy room
Safe Harbor Cape Town (8:51) – Looks at shooting in Cape Town South Africa