Safe House

Back again for the first time,

This is Review #2: SAFE HOUSE

The tagline for this film says it all: Danger lurks around every corner and in between each jump cut throughout this movie. However, the overall plot lacks the intelligence that the two main characters’ employment in the C.I.A. might suggest.

Right out of the gate, Tobin Frost (Washington) attempts to sell international intelligence agency secrets to the highest bidder. As the transaction goes sour, and in order to survive, Frost enters the U.S. Consulate to seek refuge. Being a high priority, he is immediately escorted to a (normally vacant) safe house under the watchful eye of Matt Weston (Reynolds). Weston is simply the key holder for this safe house, and is looking to move up in the highly competitive ranks of the Agency. The security of the safe house is almost immediately compromised, and soon the rookie agent Weston, and proven veteran Frost find themselves in a flight for their lives that spans the remainder of the film. I wanted to have a higher opinion of this movie, but I don’t. This film gets three and a half stars.

And here’s why:

1. Visual: The film is essentially eye candy. Each shot is meticulously lit, excellently framed, and the director Daniel Espinosa carefully uses subtle shadows throughout the film to aid in the placement of characters. Inspiring aerial imagery captures incredible views of Cape Town, South Africa, and an excellent use of motion tracking technology creates realistic tension in chase and action scenes. The framing and focus of many shots in this film foreshadow the specific intentions of the characters, and guide the gaze of the audience while increasing intensity in the story. Visual techniques earn this movie one full star.

2. Audio: The sound and music in this film was neither good or bad. The music was about standard, and did not pull me into the action in any stylized fashion worthy of noting. Although there were plenty of necessary sound effects for action sequences, the impact of said effects lessened over the span of the film, but that’s the norm for a modern action thriller.  On the other hand, the audio did not detract from the film, and therefore yields one half of a star.

3. Acting: The performances delivered by Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds are everything that the audience has come to expect from these “A list” actors. In addition to a  believable interpretation of their characters from these leading men, supporting actors like Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Running Scared) and Brendan Gleeson (Troy, Gangs of New York), add sincerity and emotive impact to the cast in a very real way. The acting was a huge plus for this movie, and earns another full star.

4. Effects: Explosions, car chases, and tons of bullets and broken glass elevate the intensity of this movie rapidly as the body count begins to stack up. The fight scene choreography was some of the best I’ve ever seen, and the pacing of the editing of said fight scenes was equally impressive. I was never lost during action sequences, which can be a tiresome trend of modern cinema. The excellent visual effects in this film help it grab another full star.

5. Story: Here’s where the bottom drops out of the trail. The plot of this film was essentially non existent. None of the motives of any characters are ever explained, and the entire show is basically Reynolds coming to grip with the sordid reality that international espionage is dirty, dangerous, and devoid of morality. As Frost and Weston flee from their pursuers,  several characters are introduced, but remain underdeveloped, and serve little purpose in the overall arc of the plot. The plot was severely lacking, and is awarded no stars.

All in all I did enjoy the spectacle that this film provided. Yet with a production budget of $85 Million, this movie would have done well to develop the characters and plot enough to endure a running time of nearly two hours. If you love action movies, I would suggest that you see this one while in theaters. If not, it’s worth a viewing after its’ box office run. My favorite part of the movie was just how hardcore Denzel is portrayed, he doesn’t even have to aim his gun to drop his enemies, and Reynolds adopts this valuable skill as his own as the film progresses.

Thanks for reading! Coming soon is a review of THE VOW by request, just in time for Valentines Day. Stay tuned and feel free to suggest additional titles or drop me comments or questions.

-Neal

IMDB info available here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1599348/

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