3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Safe House (Amazon Video)
I found Safe House to be a cumbersome and predictable spy thriller.
The pacing is best described as bipolar, going from hectic action to glacial monotony like someone was flipping a coin to decide how a shot should be paced. I am sure someone thought the slower parts were supposed to build tension; except they don't. Mostly because the movie telegraphs all of it's moves like it's painting by numbers. It's not that the script is really, really bad, I just feel like it's trying to be way more sophisticated than it actually is. You get the distinct impression that they really want to surprise you, but the only way you could be surprised is if you slept through the middle of the movie, which is entirely plausible as there will certainly be times when you will get bored.
The acting isn't bad, but at no point is it amazing. Reynolds certainly delivers as the in over his head CIA drone, but sadly Denzel seems to be partially phoning it in. Denzel's character is supposed to be some kind genius rouge super spy, but at no point in the movie are you getting that OMG he IS Keyser Soze and Jason Bourne moment. I kept hoping everything happening in the movie was just in Matt's(reynolds) head because Frost(Denzel) has him on a Machiavellian mental lock down, but the script never really explores this. When they bring Frost in for interrogation, I was thinking he would start controlling everyone like Christopher Walken's performance in Suicide Kings.
According to this movie the very first thing they do in a clandestine CIA interrogation is water-board you, and maybe they do. Except in this movie the whole scene is so out of place you can't help but think they originally had a completely different scene written, but water-boarding was all over the cable news networks in 2011 so we gotta have a scene where someone gets water-boarded, because water-boarding. To highlight how baffling and out of place this one scene is, in the run up to the actual torture itself Frost is making cracks about the thread count of the towels "you gotta have the 600s" this is supposed to tells us that Frost is really running the show with Denzel's signature sly knowing grin as a wink to the audience. The sequence just felt plainly shoehorned into the script, where as I feel a scene with some "acting" and "dialogue" might have had a better impact on the overall story. The whole scene could have been filled with sinister tension instead of just a wet, disheveled and gasping Denzel and confused looking puppy dog Reynolds. Also Denzel's character Frost is like spy famous with people recognizing him on sight like he is some kind of celebrity that all the junior spies collect trading cards of when they go to spy school. In fact in a cut scene to Langley CIA HQ several "analysts" give a seamless rundown of how dangerous Frost is in an interrupting and finishing each others sentences kind of way, it left my head spinning with the improbabilities.
Another thing that bothered me was all the car accidents. On one hand, thank the gods of cinema that the director didn't blow up everything in sight, like some unbearable hacks(Michael Bay as an example) who think that anytime two cars collide one must flip over, blow up or turn into a robot. The problem is that both the protagonists and the antagonists are in so many violent collisions throughout the movie with not a seatbelt or airbag in sight. Sure they get some cuts and bruises but seriously a few of the collisions should have resulted in death(due to lack of treatment) if not a major concussion or broken limbs. Yet the plot keeps reaching for the car crash as a mechanism to change the arc of the action, instead it runs over your suspension of disbelief like a hit and run victim.
Also Reynold's character has nearly magic super powers of reasoning and observation that are downright preposterous. He uses his super powers only when the writer runs out of talent and has written himself into a box with no other way out. I can think of three examples in the movie that would probably impress Sherlock Holmes.
A question that keeps coming up in the film is why Frost is in South Africa, Matt keeps asking it like any answer Frost gives him might actually be true or relevant. Nearly every character in the film asks this same question, like it's some kind of talisman and that if they keep asking it, the whole story will eventually start making sense. The writer's hope is that the audience will think that there is something important in the question and divert the viewer's attention from the MacGuffin that clumsily holds the story together. The whole situation is very funny as the audience already knows the answer to the question and was blatantly shown the MacGuffin in the first 5 minutes of the movie. Oh and yes, the whole plot is held up by nothing bigger or better than a classic and trope laden "Macguffin chip", and for three fourths of the movie only the audience and one character actually know what it is.
There is also a kind of "romance" that is barely a subplot, that is literally all I can say about it. The romance was on the screen just enough for you to notice it, provide a touch of character background and motivation and really nothing else.
If your cool with watching Denzel Washington get repeatedly handcuffed to random objects and Ryan reynolds get beaten up over and over, then you are going to love this movie. Otherwise wait until you can watch it for free and save your $2.99 for a better film like Ronin or Spy Game if you want a taught espionage thriller.
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Initial post: May 23, 2013 12:11:24 AM PDT
To Much........ when I was done reading half way through, I was BORED of the REVIEW........ and you LEFT nothing to WATCH.............. its a review......your not writing a BOOK.............
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