KATHMANDU: A safe house in espionage terms is meant to offer sanctuary to those who seek it. It comes down from 1118 AD when Peter Abelard had an affair with his attractive student Heloise and incurred her uncle’s wrath, who had three men attack Abelard leaving him to die of his wounds, but he didn’t and went to Quincey and founded a safe house that he named ‘The Paraclete’ in honour of the Holy Ghost and there he finally found sanctuary.
The movie Safe House is directed by Daniel Espinosa, director of the acclaimed Swedish crime drama Snabba Cash, shoots his espionage thriller with flair, complete with rapid camera movement, a palette of eye-scorchingly bright colours and fragmented editing. If Safe House was emotionally compelling, the stylistic approach might make the narrative sizzle — but the script is as simple and familiar as they come: Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA agent with a monotonous gig. He’s a safe housekeeper, tasked with maintaining a stronghold in South Africa in case the feds need to stop by for some…interrogating. After a year of begging for field work and keeping the joint tidy, Weston finds himself embroiled in the investigation of Tobin Bell (Denzel Washington), an ex-CIA notorious for selling information on the black market. A group of agents bring Bell in to Weston’s safe house for a routine waterboarding, but everything is thrown into chaos when the lockdown is infiltrated by machine-wielding baddies looking to put a bullet in Bell’s head. To keep the captor alive, Weston goes on the run with Bell in hand…never knowing exactly why everyone wants the guy dead.
The setup for Safe House provides Washington and Reynolds, two fully capable action stars, to do their thing and to do it well. The two characters have their own defining characteristics that each actor bites off with ferocity: Reynolds’ Weston is a man drowning in circumstance, built to kick ass, but still out of his league and just hoping to get back to his gal in one piece. Bell has years of experience boring into the heads of his opponents, and Washington plays him with the necessary charisma and confidence that make even his most despicable characters a treat to watch.
But the duo fight a losing battle in Safe House, contending with the script’s meandering action and ambiguous stakes that turn the Bourne-esque thriller into a grueling experience. Much of the movie is an extended chase scene where the object of the bad guys’ desire is never identified. It’s a mystery!—but the lack of info comes off as confusing. Safe House cuts back and forth between the compelling relationship between Weston and Bell and a war room full of exceptional actors (Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepherd) given nothing to do but spurt straightforward backstory and typical “there’s no time, Mr……….
For me an avid thriller fan I liked most the atmosphere of claustrophobia that espionage has given the movie with twisty lanes through the runaways hurtle and how each safe house resembles another. One sanctuary is in the middle of the veldt near Jonesburg where the entire film was shot and here the claustrophobia is emphasised by open spaces around the Safe House. The movie starts quietly: Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) holding his girlfriend’s hand, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) having a drink with an old friend… then that friend gives Frost a microchip and Safe House takes off until the very last unexpected scene.
You’ve got to hand it to director Daniel Espinosa for watching out for these details.