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Movie Review: "Safe House"

Movie Review Jackie K Cooper
“Safe House” (Universal Pictures)

Whenever Denzel Washington deigns to appear in a movie you can pretty much expect it to be special. He is an actor of such talent that just by appearing on screen he makes an impression. So his new film “Safe House” arrived with expectations of grandeur, and that seems to have been too much to expect. The film is good entertainment; it just isn’t great.

Washington plays Tobin Frost, a CIA Agent who is suspected of selling secrets to the USA’s enemies. At the starts of the film he is seen making a deal for a file of information which he is supposedly going to sell to the highest bidder. But before he can get safely away with the file he is pursued by people out to kill him. He seeks and finds refuge of sorts at the local American Embassy.

From the Embassy, Frost is transported to a “safe house” operated by the CIA in Capetown, South Africa. New CIA recruit Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is in charge of the “safe house.” He knows who Frost is when he arrives and is shocked when Frost is interrogated by a CIA team. Shortly thereafter a group of people attack the “safe house” trying to get to Frost. He and Weston escape but this leaves Weston responsible for Frost and nowhere to go.

The issue has also been raised as to who sent the men to get Frost and was someone in the CIA involved with them. This creates a paranoid situation for Weston as he tries to figure out just who he can trust.

This plot creates many, many moments of suspense that keeps the audience alert and entertained, but it also plays out as too predictable. If you can’t spot the bad person early on then you haven’t seen very many movies like this one.

The acting is solid with Washington once again creating a fascinating character. However he has a co-star and that is Reynolds, who plays his character throughout the film as being on the verge of tears. It isn’t a take on the character that is consistent with what he says and does. Plus the two stars do not create a partnership which you would expect from this storyline. If there is any bonding it is vague.

There is a romance that is not of any value to the film and is not explored enough to be very important. Nora Arnezeder plays the young woman with whom Matt is involved. The depth of their relationship and the impact of it on his desire to succeed is never explained.

Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard and Brenda Gleeson play various higher ups in the CIA hierarchy. Their talent adds much to the potential excitement of the film. Perhaps if they had been more involved in the plot then the movie would have been better.

The film is rated R for profanity and violence.

Any Denzel Washington film is a good one, but “Safe House” had the potential to be even better. Too bad it missed that mark.

I scored “Safe House” a precarious 6 out of 10.

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