By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Three Beers) -
Denzel Washington is Tobin Frost, a former CIA agent-turned freelance information seller, and public enemy number one, who turns himself in to authorities after a decade on the run. He is taken to Cape Town, South Africa, where there’s an illegal CIA Safe-House run by Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds). This safe-house exists to interrogate terrorists and valuable assets for information before being legally remanded. Weston has spent a year taking care of the safe-house and feels he’s done his time, and is ready for real spy-work. But the bureaucracy of the agency is keeping his transfer dormant. All of this is changed suddenly when the safe-house is attacked by mysterious gunmen and Weston goes on the run, with Frost by his side. The two fight and test each other’s wits, and eventually through mutual need are tied together.
For some reason I can’t get this song out of my head now…
The principal leads work very well together, and keep things interesting throughout the film. Denzel Washington has always been one of my favorite actors, which is why it has saddened me that in the last couple years his film roles have lacked the meat of roles like American Gangster and Training Day. So it is nice to see him build a strong and complex character in this film. Ryan Reynolds holds his own against the more seasoned veteran actor Washington. His character is particularly interesting to watch in the safe-house breach sequence where you can watch as his fear builds, and then as his survival instincts turn to career-oriented determination. He knows that if he loses Tobin Frost to the gunman, or allows Frost to escape, it will destroy his chances at seeing fieldwork. And the arc his character goes through feels realistic, giving the audience something to empathize with.
About a decade ago this script, and the film’s presentation, would have been novel. The film is shot in extreme grainy close-ups and shaky-cam, which it uses to attempt to heighten the suspense and keep the action moving with lighting speed. Unfortunately for the cinematographer, this style is used in pretty much every action movie nowadays, and has become as old-hat as the storyline.
At least when Paul Greengrass did it it felt fresh.
And the story, by the way, is another issue. By no means is this a bad storyline, it just doesn’t attempt anything to distinguish it from other action-thrillers. The screenwriters decided to take the plot of Midnight Run, strip out the buddy-comedy elements, and inject a lethal dose of The Bourne movie franchise.
Replace this guy with the guy from American Gangster, lather/rinse/repeat
This is the kind of movie that is ok to watch on cable tv when you’ve got nothing else going on. You’ll be entertained, but you won’t gain anything substantial from the experience.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every fistfight
Take a Drink: for every car-chase
Take a Drink: whenever the words “safehouse”, “file”, or “Cape Town” are mentioned.