Welcome back, Universal Pictures. If this is how you’re going to start making up for 2011, then way to kick it off with a bang. In my February preview, I mentioned that I hoped Swedish director Daniel Espinoza’s Safe House was more than just a Hollywood cash grab. And that the pairing of Malcolm X and Green Lantern (Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds) seemed like a match made in action heaven. With a swift script courtesy of David Guggenheim (making his big screen writing debut), it looks like they all set out to make sure we were safe to return to theaters this weekend.
Tobin Frost (Washington) is paying a visit to an old friend from the MI6, Alec Wade (Liam Cunningham). Frost is there to buy intel because someone outside wants Frost dead. Instead, they only manage to kill off a decoy while Frost and Wade attempt a getaway. Very quickly do they put a bullet in Wade and Frost makes an escape, but not before he can inject himself with the intel chip and walk straight into the U.S. Consulate in Cape Town, South Africa. Back at the CIA, Catherine Linklater (Vera Farmiga) and David Barlow (Brendan Gleeson), are trying to figure out what to make of the fact that Frost just walked into the consulate off the street after being rogue for nine years.
Matt Weston (Reynolds) is a safe house keeper who hates getting passed over time and again. He just wants the chance to prove himself to the CIA and is getting tired of being holed up. He’s stuck staring at four walls all day waiting for someone to get brought in and feels guilty for having to lie to his girlfriend, Ana (Nora Arnezeder), about his late nights of being stuck at the “office.” When the T-1000, err… Daniel Kiefer (Robert Patrick), walks in with Frost’s head under a bag, he realizes that he may be getting a little more than he wants as they start to waterboard Frost before his beloved safe house goes under attack. Now Weston may get to finally prove himself after all if he can keep Frost safe but it may be a little more than Weston was bargaining for.
While Guggenheim’s screenplay may play with a few too many coincidences, director Espinoza keeps everything moving along at a relentless pace. Be forewarned though, Oliver Wood is on the scene as Director of Photography which of course means lots of shaky-cam. While some may complain about the need for Dramamine, I’ve come to the conclusion that no one does it “better” than Wood — even if there happens to be one instance of getting to pull off a classic John Woo shot, ala his work on Face/Off.
Composer Ramin Djawadi is slowly sneaking onto my radar as one of the next great action composers. Having been around for almost a decade now, he’s got a mixed bag of titles on his resume but after this, and his scores for Fright Night and Iron Man, he looks to be standing right alongside my current favorite, Michael Giacchino. It’s of no coincidence that they also dabble in television video game composing. On a final note, if it weren’t for the blood-riddled violence and intensity, Safe House is surely within the PG-13 realm and deserves to make plenty of money at the box office. There’s a total of one use of the forsaken f-word and almost no other profanity to be heard (which is really saying something considering the two leads). Maybe the MPAA is starting to take their violence a little more seriously for a change in their ratings game after all.
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