FILM REVIEW: Safe House


A film that stars Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds as opposing sides of this spy thriller action drama that ticks all the boxes but does it actually work?

One of the CIA’s top renegade spies Tobin Frost (Washington) is on the run, after a someone had tried to kill him and his British Intelligence associate, and walk straight into the US Embassy in South Africa where the CIA immediately arrest him and transfer him to a safe house for interrogation.

The safe house is manned by Matt Weston (Reynolds) who has been stationed there a year and hardly seen any action. Weston is bored but dedicated and desperately wants to move to Paris s a field agent to be with his girlfriend.

When Frost is brought to Weston’s safe house everyone seems on edge apart from Frost who seem remarkable calm and in control. Not long into the film the safe house is attacked and Weston finds himself on the run with Frost trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys while also trying to not let Frost get away.


Why did Frost go rogue and who is after him. Is there a mole in the CIA or something bigger and who can they trust. These are the questions asked in this thriller that travels across South Africa and beyond.

There are 3 times of spy films in my book, one is the James Bond over top gadget fest that families can watch, two the slow burning complex story (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and three the full on non stop action spectacle. Safe House is firmly in the last group. This film is gritty and fast and LOUD. It will appeal to fans of the Bourne films and it is a good comparison but with this it is harder and the crashes seem worse than Bourne. The Director Jorge Daniel from Sweden has done a great job with his first American movie and is trying to bring something new to the genre. He succeeds in a way but also fails in another. Another obvious comparison would be Man on Fire which also starred Washington. That was real yet gritty and tense.


The camera work is decent and the use of shaky cam is not overdone and Daniel makes good use of the locations and natural lighting. The decision to bring Ramin Djawadi for the music was a wise choice as the score uses multiple themes to enhance the mood and the more serious moments. The stunts are impressive and I thought I had seen all the ways to show a car crash on screen but somehow this film manages to show some new ways which is an accomplishment in itself. There were some genuine jump out of seat moments within the action that took me completely by surprise and the deaths are not pretty in this film. People die in nasty ways and the bad guys are just ruthless. They do not say a lot and that is because they are doing their job.

The relationship between the two lead characters Frost and Weston is a fragile one that grows in ways you would not expect and I do not mean the easy route where they become friends, this is real life action remember. The story has a few twists and turns that some you see coming and some you don’t. This is where I was disappointed because in seems every spy film these days there is a mole or a double cross but to guess it so early on was just a let down. If you are going to have a double cross then make the audience work for it and not guess it to easily. Look back at films like No Way Out for inspiration. Chessy I know but I never saw that coming in a million years.


Also this film was LOUD maybe too loud. I am all for full on action scenes but the guns shots were going for a realistic sound like you were in the action yourself. I m sure millions of people love this but then why so loud. Maybe I am getting old.

The cast are all decent enough with Denzel brining his normal committed self and defining his charter in a way only Denzel can. Reynolds is trying to prove a point here by not being the pretty face and to a degree he succeeds. Supporting the leads are Brendon Gleeson in what I would call a by decent portrayal and Sam Shepard plying the same character type as he did in Black Hawk Down which is not a complaint but I fear he will be getting typecast in these roles. Also there is one of my favourite actresses Vera Farmiga who quite frankly is wasted in this role which is a shame because she is amazing when cast right, like up in the Air and Source Code.

Overall not a bad film at all and will please the action gritty spy fans but next time work more on the plot to bring something new to the genre.
GS Rating: 3/5
GS Reporter: Montoya

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