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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Safe House | Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Nora Arnezeder, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard | Review

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Safe House

Ryan Reynolds plays a CIA “safe house” keeper and Denzel Washington is the dangerous rogue agent in his custody in the espionage action thriller, Safe House, a place that proves far from being safe.

Stuck in what he feels is a low level job for the CIA as the housekeeper of a safe house in Cape Town, South Africa, where he spends all of his time alone and bored waiting for the phone to ring, Matt Weston (Reynolds) aspires to be a field agent and prove his worth.

Meanwhile, as Matt is whittling away time and thinking about his pretty French girlfriend Anna (Nora Arnezeder) that has no clue Matt works for the CIA, Tobin Frost (Washington) a former CIA agent, wanted as a traitor on several continents for selling secrets to our enemies, walks into the American Consulate to seek refuge from unknown assailants that are on his trail.

No sooner is Frost sent with a team of agents to the safe house for a brutal interrogation when the place is broken into and attacked. What ensues is an explosive gun fight resulting in all the agents slaughtered and Matt forced to go on the run with the infamous Frost in his custody. Green to as to what to do next, Matt contacts his immediate superior David Barlow (Brendan Gleeson) who, with his fellow agent, Catherine Linklater (Vera Farmiga) and boss, Deputy Director Harlan Whitford (Sam Shepard), working out of their CIA headquarters in Washington, D.C., order him to keep moving and hold on to Frost until help arrives.

The situation proves to be life changing experience for rookie, Matt, finds himself suddenly thrust into an assignment he never saw coming. Inexperienced in the field, he must protect and keep the manipulative and brilliant Frost in tow, while trying to stay clear of their attackers, figure out what's going on and who his enemies really are.

As it turns out, there is more than meets the eye. Questions arise as to whether Frost is truly a villain or traitor. If so, what in his history led him there. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear there is a mole within the ranks of the CIA with their own agenda. He or she is possibly behind the attacks, and it may very well have to do with secret files recently obtained by Frost.

Although this role is not a stretch for Oscar winner Washington, who has portrayed similar dangerously cool and calculating fellows like the suitably named Frost, he is at his charismatic best, chewing up every scene. Rather than being overshadowed by Washington, the likeable Reynold holds his own, proving he is to be taken seriously as an actor (he already did with his underrated, strong performance in last year's poorly received, claustrophobic drama, Buried) and not just another Hollywood hunk.

In what amounts to mere cameo roles, Robert Patrick appears as a ruthless CIA interrogator and Ruben Blades shows up briefly as a document forger.

Working from a taut script by newcomer David Guggenheim, Swedish director Daniel Espinosa keeps the action moving with well staged shootouts, car chases, bloody fist fights and a body count that keeps stacking up. What I don't like and could do without is the grainy visual style and shaky camerawork that I find distracting.

Be that as it may, Safe House delivers what audiences want and come to expect from a spy thriller. It doesn't break new grounds, but it is suspenseful, exciting, with plenty of high voltage action and good performances. That should be enough to safely fill the theatre house.

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