safe house DI 01
2012 Running time: 115 Certificate: 15 Rating: 4
KA Safe House

Synopsis

Brace yourself for Bourne-style thrills as America's most wanted traitor – CIA super-rogue Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) – is forced to give himself up in South Africa. For interrogation, Frost is taken to a secret holding facility maintained by inexperienced field operative Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds). But when security is breached, Weston finds his skills put to the sternest test when he is left in sole custody of the slippery Frost. Making his Hollywood debut, Swedish director Daniel Espinosa brings together the intrigue and cat-and-mouse action in pulsating style.

Director

  • Daniel Espinosa

Cast

  • Denzel Washington

  • Ryan Reynolds

  • Vera Farmiga

  • Brendan Gleeson

  • Sam Shepard

Review

Ever seen a Denzel Washington movie where he isn't the smartest guy in the room? Well, you won't see any changes to the M.O. here as his unflappable CIA deserter - so cool they named him Frost - shows Ryan Reynolds' young pup the true meaning of intelligence.

Initially, however, things don't quite go to the elusive Frost's plan. After selling US secrets to people he shouldn't for ten years, his latest transaction in Cape Town is rudely interrupted by a squad of no-nonsense Middle Eastern types.

To the delight of Langley's finest - CIA bigwigs Sam Shepard, Vera 'Source Code' Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson - the cornered Frost has no choice but to turn himself in to the US Consulate.

This calls for an interrogation. And since protocol dictates that Frost be taken to the nearest safe house (think Abu Ghraib for single occupancy), it means bored 'housekeeper' Weston (Reynolds) finally sees some action after waiting a year for his first proper assignment.

But his role becomes more hands-on than he anticipated when the place is suddenly stormed by Frost's aforementioned pursuers. With chief interrogator Robert Patrick terminated (appropriately), it's up to Weston to get Frost to the next safe house on his own.

Which is easier said than done when you're dealing with the smartest cookie in CIA history.

"He rewrote procedure" says the awestruck Farmiga. Looks like he could have had a hand in the script too, as Frost is presented with a remarkable number of opportunities to escape.

Twelve hours to scramble a back-up team? Where are they coming from? Guantanamo? (With all due respect to the film's technical adviser, his most telling revelation in the production notes is that CIA operatives are never called agents. Now that's useful intel.)

Nor does it take an intelligence expert to figure out who's behind the security leaks that make Weston's job doubly difficult. And while padding out his psychological profile, the subplot involving Weston's French girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder) doesn't amount to a hill of beans.

Thankfully, any bumps in the plot are steamrollered under director Espinosa's procession of breakneck chases, chaotic shoot-outs, and convincingly ugly fistfights.

And if the South African locations remain mostly anonymous, the Larga township comes into its own during a pursuit across its corrugated rooftops.

With gritty, jittery visuals to drive the skulduggery, it's clear whose territory we're in. It certainly comes as no surprise to learn that cinematographer Oliver Wood and editor Richard Pearson have both been involved in the Bourne shenanigans.

Astutely breaking up the action with ragged breathers for Reynolds and the enigmatic Denz, it's safe to assume that interesting things will happen when Espinosa is allowed to express his own Identity.