A rookie CIA agent is given a chance to prove himself when his safe house is attacked shortly after a high priority prisoner is dumped on his lap. With his backup team dead, assassins in hot pursuit and betrayal around every corner, the lone agent must figure out who to trust if he and his prisoner are going to make it to the next safe house alive.
The BOURNE films changed the way we look at the government, the FBI, the CIA and all the flavours in between. I'm all for high octane espionage mixed with gritty action, car chases and spy vs. spy intrigue. Contrary to popular belief there are many shades of grey when it comes to this sort of thriller. Obviously we have the MISSION IMPOSSIBLES, BOURNES, and CASINO ROYALS which keep the ball rolling in style, and then there's the more serious cloak and dagger stuff like SALT, PATRIOT GAMES and HANNA. Both sides of the coin are equally fun for different reasons but clearly stand on one side of the line. The great thing about SAFE HOUSE is that it walks the line between them with carefree ease and delivers the best of both worlds without becoming a slave to one or the other.
SAFE HOUSE isn't perfect to be sure, but there isn't much to complain about on a generic level. The storyline works because most of the time these films take place on a mission, task or layered agenda. This flick focuses upon a green field agent longing for more than simply watching an empty safe house for hours on end. Well, he certainly gets that in spades. This agent, played by Ryan Reynolds, was well done and believable. I wasn't much for the relationship aspect of the film as it felt airbrushed in only to be brushed away after the audience was made aware of it. It's a close call, but they either should have scrapped it entirely (as it didn't do much for the story) or at the very least elaborated on it a touch more than they did in order to create some connection or empathy. This was pretty much my on serious complaint.
Casting Ryan Reynolds was a good move, the guy's proven to be a valuable asset for any film whether he's there to make you laugh (VAN WILDER, WAITING), hit the emotion button (BURIED, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR) or kick some ass (BLADE TRINITY, SMOKIN ACES). I love the guy, and still feel they beat up on him something fierce because of GREEN LANTERN which in my humble opinion wasn't nearly as awful as people think. Now mix in some Denzel as the rogue super agent Tobin Frost and it's pretty hard to strike out. These two guys really weight in when the dialogue/mind game between them starts. They played off one another fantastically. Sure, this sort of teaming has been done, but it worked so I'll leave it at that. I loved the job lingo/code Reynolds' agency had going, stuff like "tenant" and "landlord". Small stuff really, but sometimes it's the little details that stick out the most.
SAFE HOUSE does come off a little like a BOURNE film simply because of the way the game is presented and played. Basically you have Reynolds and Washington doing their dance while being pursued by bad guys at every turn, while a room full of their superiors watch and ramble on about it from the headquarters. As a result, this bleeds into the whole "been there, done that" area and eventually builds up to a climax and finale fans of this genre will no doubt see coming. In a day and age where everything's been done before, you sort of have to shrug your shoulders and except it, focussing instead on how good (or bad) the ride was. Thankfully this ride is well worth taking and added some much needed testosterone to an otherwise boring start to the movie year.