Safe House mixed together some of the staples for any Hollywood blockbuster.
And with the pairing of a rookie and a veteran, car chases and shoot outs - on first glance this film has plenty of them
Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds are paired together and flex their muscles in an action/thriller, which Washington also helps to produce.
Working in a safe house in South Africa, young inexperienced CIA agent Matt Weston (Reynolds) is waiting for something, anything, to happen.
He’s fallen in love with a French trainee doctor (Nora Arnezeder) and is hoping to get a break as a field agent in Paris.
But he’s finding hard to prove himself when all he has is a bouncy ball and a teach yourself French tape for company.
That’s until highly dangerous rogue agent by the name of Tobin Frost (Washington) arrives.
Frost is wanted by several governments for various acts of treason and has come a cropper while trying to sell highly sensitive information to MI6 in Johannesburg.
In the middle of a highly-charged interrogation, the building’s defences are compromised by a gang of thugs led by Vargas.
Cue a fast paced shoot out. Weston escapes the hail of bullets with Tobin, bundling the prisoner into the boot of a car as he makes a hasty exit.
He alerts his boss David Barlow (Brendan Gleeson) and senior agent Catherine Linklater (Vera Farmiga) to the clear and present danger.
Now Weston must deliver his prisoner safely to the US government, all the while dodging the bullets and trying to not let Frost inside his head.
But the more time Weston spends with Frost the more he realises things aren’t quite as they seem.
As the film goes on the line dividing the two sides becomes more blurred and Weston questions his loyalty and future with the CIA.
I’d read before going to watch Safe House that there were similarities between it and the excellent Bourne films, and this certainly was the case.
A race through the crowded streets of Johannesburg has obvious similarities to the highly charged Morocco sequence from The Bourne Ultimatum, but isn’t half as good. But saying that it is still entertaining and gets your heart pumping.
The first half of the film is fast paced, with shoot outs and car chases.
Despite a great first half, there were times that I had to look away from the screen. Some of the camera shots were far too close, and coupled with the fast paced and loud sound track, I just couldn’t watch.
As the film goes on the fights get more brutal but sadly the story gets less interesting.
The story is brilliant at the start and various elements are laid down, but they don’t go anywhere. It’s almost as though the film has such an excellent beginning that it can’t continue at the same standard.
Despite the superb acting by Reynolds and Washington, their characters aren’t given enough time to really develop by the script. The relationship between them could have been explored a lot more. Sure the audience discovers that Weston and Frost can shoot, drive cars speedily through bust streets dodging bullets, but we never discover their motivations.
Safe House has all the elements to be a classic Hollywood blockbuster and in the first half of the film I thought it was going to be just that.
But by the time the credits rolled it was more like a forgettable action flick just about saved by its two leading men.
by Sam Chetwynd