Safe House

Utterly generic procedural about double-crossers and police corruption is the kind of film that Tony Scott can direct in his sleep. It even stars Denzel Washington, who has been the director’s muse since Crimson Tide in 1995. But he didn’t direct in this case. That honor went to developing Swedish film director Daniel Espinosa. The thrills are serviceable enough, but there’s little here that you haven’t seen a hundred times before. The Bourne film series did this subject better with more flair.

Safe House is the latest offender of the cinematographic “shaky camera” technique – constantly moving images haphazardly edited together, all seemingly shot with a single hand held camera. Not only are the scenes always in motion but the hyper contrast of the cinematography suggests the lo-fidelity style of popular iPhone photographic filters like Instagram. Sometimes these various tactics can give the suspense more intensity. However the action here is edited so chaotically as to render the spectacle jumbled and incoherent. These gimmicks feel like they’re designed to divert your attention from the banality of the events – to make the requisite car chases and fight scenes more exciting than they really are.  These techniques did nothing to improve the film.  This thriller remains pretty routine.

Safe House is a mixed bag. The film takes place in Cape Town, South Africa and the production was actually shot there. That’s favorable. It boasts a solid cast. Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds star, but it also showcases supporting players that include Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Rubén Blades and Robert Patrick. It’s a pity none of them were given a character they could really sink their acting chops into. These are stock characters in stock situations. I greeted the whole affair with a casual indifference. While it played out I admit I was mildly entertained. The actors kept giving me hope that something exciting would happen or develop. But when the story was finished, the plot revealed itself to be thoroughly generic. There are several scenes in which a gun goes off when you’re not expecting it to happen. The sound was so loud I jumped out of my seat at least twice because it sounded like a gun went off in the theater. Other than that, I can barely remember anything about this film.

9 Responses to “Safe House”

  1. It’s a serviceable thriller that should satisfy those late winter cravings from action fans who haven’t seen enough bullets and fists flying onscreen. Nothing special but Reynolds and Washington make it better than it has any right to be. Good review right here.


  2. I’ll pass on his one. Your review confirms why I didn’t want to see this in the first place. Thanks.


  3. Great review. I expected this kind of outcome from Safe House.


  4. We recorded our weekly show earlier this evening, in which I stated I would watch this over “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”….after reading this review…..I think I’ll give it a miss!

    Well written as always my friend – especially your expert deconstruction of the various parlour tricks aimed at distracting from an otherwise drab affair.

    I was curious to see how they shot Cape Town’s signature vistas…anyway, hope they did it justice!


    • From the trailer it looks as though The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Safe House couldn’t be more different. Safe House isn’t a horrible film, but I have grown so weary of generic action movies. I was checking my watch a lot during the last 30 minutes. That’s never a good sign.


  5. Didn’t want to see this at all. Nice review (have I ever been able to not say that?). Btw, another poll on my blog. Sixteen choices, deadline is Friday the 24th at 7 pm eastern standard time, heres the link:


  6. This movie is exactly what I expected it would be. After seeing “Contraband” (witch seems like a similar type of movie), I think I will skip this one. Nice Review too by the way.


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