With its adrenaline-inducing, heart-pounding action sequences and plenty of surprise twists, Safe House proves better than expected. What saves it from becoming just another mindless action flick is the care with which director Daniel Espinosa develops the characters, spending just as much time on building connections between them and the audience as he does on the amazing action sequences.
Denzel Washington is probably one of the most talented actors of his generation. The two-time Oscar-winner has proven time and time again that he can act, but what’s especially unique about him is his uncanny ability to be likeable even when he’s playing seriously flawed characters.
Most spy or espionage thrillers revolve around catching the bad guys and placing them in custody. Safe House turns this concept on its head when the suspect at large, rogue CIA operative Tobin Frost (Washington), turns himself in to the U.S. Consulate in Cape Town, South Africa.
He is then transferred to a U.S. safe house for interrogation, but things go wrong when a gang of mercenary killers arrive and kill everyone on site with the exception of Frost and Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), the “housekeeper” of the safe house. Rookie Weston now has the chance of his career to prove himself as he’s faced with the daunting task of moving Frost to another safe house while trying to figure out who’s after Frost.
Espinosa’s hyper-realistic shooting style is not for the faint of heart (or stomach, for that matter). The car chase sequence early on trumps any and all of the car chases in the Fast and Furious series, and the fight scenes are almost too intense to watch.
Leaving the action aside, the most enjoyable aspect of the film is the unpredictable dynamic between Frost and Weston. The face off between jaded, veteran Frost and young, idealistic Weston is ultimately the main attraction in this film, as the archetypal conflict forces both men to confront their perception of good versus bad.
With a supporting cast that would make any director jealous, including Sam Shepard, Brendan Gleeson, and Vera Farmiga, as well as the beautiful location of Cape Town, Safe House is definitely one of the better action thrillers released in the last few years.