Safe House

Directed By: Daniel Espinosa

Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, and Sam Shepard

These last several months have been an interesting time for movies with big actors.  Time and time again, we've all been asking whether great acting is enough to make a movie great.  Well, the results have been mixed thus far.  In J. Edgar, Leonardo DiCaprio gives a powerhouse performance.  The problem is that the movie absolutely sucks.  In The Iron Lady, Meryl Streep does exactly what she does best, but the movie overall doesn't live up to its potential.  In the recently released Safe House, Denzel Washington brings his A-game to the film, and we somehow get a decent movie.

Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a grunt within the CIA who works at a safe house in Cape Town, South Africa.  Here, his most challenging task is answering the phone.  Though ready to become a case officer, he needs to get some actual field experience first.  Weston shouldn't worry.  He will get his chance to get some action soon enough.  Rogue CIA agent Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is in Cape Town and has gotten his hands on a file containing some critical intelligence secrets.  Naturally, there are a whole lot of people who want to get their hands on it.  While evading some muscle coming after him, Frost enters the US Consulate in Cape Town for sanctuary.  Fully aware of what the CIA will do to him, Frost allows himself to be taken into captivity, and the agency takes him to Weston's safe house for interrogation. 

With the information Frost is carrying though, he's never safe.  Heavily armed men break into the CIA's secure location, and Weston must step up to the plate to protect his house guest.  As he flees the safe house with Frost in custody, Weston does what he must to follow orders from Langley, but he soon begins to question how a secure CIA location was compromised.  It doesn't help that Frost is a legendary spy who knows how to get in a guy's head.

While Safe House is not bait for the Academy like J. Edgar or The Iron Lady, there's still room to make some comparisons with these films.  The movie has a world-class actor in Denzel Washington who can stand proudly among the greats of all time.  Safe House itself though is a basic action thriller that does everything right but nothing great.  Ryan Reynolds gives a decent performance, but he's a bit overrated.  He's simply not enough to carry the movie.  Without the great performance from Washington, I honestly believe would have given the film a lower rating.  While this is not great acting making a movie great, it certainly shows that great acting can save a movie from altogether sucking at times.

Safe House ultimately just plays it too safe.  Every spy thriller has plot twists.  The best ones surprise you.  Just look at the Bourne films.  Those flicks are the best examples of spy movies that got it right.  The problem with Safe House is that I knew everything that was going to happen in the movie within the first five minutes.  On top of that, I've seen all of it done better in other spy movies.  Without a great performance from Washington, this flick would have been pretty worthless.  This formulaic spy thriller gets a 0.06% rating.