Ryan Reynolds Safe House

February 12, 2012 by staff 

Ryan Reynolds Safe House, Why is the most-wanted CIA traitor suddenly surrendering to the U.S. Embassy in South Africa after 10 years underground?

If a spy movie is worth its salt, that answer will be teased out until very near the end of the picture. And give “Safe House” credit for making us want to wait around for the revelation, even if we’ve mostly guessed the answer by then.

The prized traitor is one Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), whose legendary skills haven’t diminished in the course of the last decade. But it turns out the Cape Town CIA officials aren’t comparably talented (although they apparently enjoy water-boarding their “guests”), and he needs to rely on a low-level CIA operative to survive a dedicated assault by somebody who wants him dead.

The CIA greenhorn is Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), a hapless type who spends the rest of the movie attempting to bring Frost to justice, all while Frost himself tries to wriggle free.

The film makes much of Weston’s lowly place on the company ladder, but as the movie goes on, you begin to sense there may be a good reason for that. He’s a terrible agent.

In scene after scene, he keeps making mistakes, but I’m not sure the movie is really aware of that; we’re still supposed to root for him, despite his blunders.

This guy would never cut it in the tightrope world of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” let’s put it that way.

“Safe House” is decorated with a few classy character actors filling in the roles of Weston’s CIA bosses, including Vera Farmiga (did she keep her wardrobe from “Source Code”?), Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepard. They all stand around and look at the big board in the war room and worry a lot.

Reynolds is fairly one-note in a role he seems to have already played, somehow. We expect a commanding presence from Washington and he delivers, even if the movie leaves you suspecting that Tobin Frost might be more lucky than skilled, especially when it comes to where the bullets land when the gun battles break out. Which is frequently.

The director is Daniel Espinosa, a Swede, who indulges in the usual shaky-cam and saturated colors expected in the 21st-century thriller. However generic the movie’s style, at least it moves along at a dandy pace, and keeps the intensity meter turned up high.

If you want a great spy movie, see “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” first, but “Safe House” will do for a Friday night diversion.

“Safe House” (3 stars)

Denzel Washington plays a rogue CIA agent in South Africa; Ryan Reynolds is the newbie agent charged with keeping this guy alive in the face of an onslaught of attackers. The movie’s shaky-cam style doesn’t do it any favors, but the pace is swift and the intensity is turned up high.

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