The’ll say, “We’ll take it from here.” That’s when you know you’re screwed.
I don’t like it when the CIA is the bad guy–the cynical rogue agency that goes around killing people and efficiently/ruthlessly cleaning up when things get messy. Mostly, I just don’t like a cliche that I don’t see much truth in. This cliche includes desk jockeys that, due to being in the CIA, fight like an MMA champion and drive better than the Transporter.
Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a frustrated, entry-level CIA agent who has had his career put in the drawer indefinitely. His mentor at Langley, Barlow (Brendan Gleeson), isn’t doing a very good job of looking out for him, as Matt’s been on duty in a Cape Town, South Africa safe house for the past year (which apparently is longer than usual). The job is usually pretty boring–that is, until today. Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), the biggest CIA traitor in like ever, is in Cape Town doing a deal with an MI6 officer, but trouble starts when “the file” gets into Frost’s hands. To avoid said trouble, Frost jumps into the frying pan (Cape Town gun battle) and into another frying pan (US custody). That takes Frost to Weston’s safe house where he, Frost, is treated impolitely. Well, as you might expect, things don’t go too well in the safe house and Weston needs to escape with Frost and stay alive while the dreadfully staffed CIA needs to scramble to get someone to that Siberian-like nowhere that is modern, developed South Africa. Ambiguities abound and friends are foes and foes friends. “Everyone betrays everyone.”
Safe House (2012), directed by Daniel Espinosa and written by David Guggenheim, is everything you might expect and not much more. It’s entertaining. There are some curiosities in the plot that stretch even my own capacity for disbelief-suspension. One time, the baddie is in the middle of a car chase cum gun battle with Weston/Frost and he screws on a suppressor on his gun. Why? The CIA sends Weston to pick up a GPS backpack (a term of art, it seems) at a stadium on game night. As you may suspect, it is rather difficult to keep “without a doubt the biggest traitor we’ve ever had” in control when the job requires you be clandestine. What’s worse is that the CIA somehow thinks Weston might be in league with Frost because of this failure. How stupid are these people?
If you have any cynicism when it comes to movies, I think you’re going to have to leave it home or stay home to keep it company because this movie may be a waste if you don’t. I say may because those two bits are probably the outright stupidest of the whole movie. Of course exploding things and Reynolds’s incredible martial artistry is going to strain your sensibilities, but that’s really expected. Reynolds, you may be surprised to find out, is actually an actor, not a perpetual student, vampire hunter, or political strategist. We get past these things to enjoy the adventure, and we can do so in this movie as well.
Reynolds does very well. These kinds of movies aren’t really about a range of emotion. Confusion, sadness, pain, anger, these are basically all that are required and the dude abides. Washington as the tired, but still incredibly able veteran spy/rogue does just as well. Washington is in serious danger of losing his acting career to satire. I was a little nervous that he’d play right into that character here–especially after hearing “tick tock tick tock tick tock”–but I was happy to see this wasn’t the case, but was always close to the surface. He needs to be careful.
How does one conclude on a pure entertainment thriller like this one? What does it say about society? What does this mean for the future of cinema? Basically the industry says “Let me entertain you.” And I respond, “That’s why I’m here.”
Oh, and I hate that song.