Safe House


Safe House (2012)Movie Review: «Safe House».

English Title: Safe House.
Production: USA, 2012.
Release Date: 10.02.2012 (USA).
Russian Distributor: UPI (09.02.2012).
Official Website: English
Genres: Action / Criminal / Thriller.
Director: Daniel Espinosa.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Brendan Gleeson.
Running Time: 117 minutes.

The Secret Hideout

On the February 10th of 2012 a new Action movie opens in theaters worldwide. While staying true to the core values of The Bourne trilogy, it is titled Safe House, a review of which will tell you about a young CIA operative trying to manage his stress, when he has to guard a wanted criminal from the assassins.

The history of this film involves the so-called «Black List» in Hollywood. It should not be confused with the one holding information about the person, who aren’t welcomed by Film Industry, as it only contains a collection of fine scenarios that, for whatever reason, have not yet found a producer. The script of this film was originally written by David Guggenheim. His work has immediately attracted the attention of an American producer – Scott Stuber, who founded the Stuber Productions company.

Scott Stuber has had a long collaborative relationship with Universal Pictures now working under the contract, which expires next year. According to it, he gets involved with some new pictures of the studio. In the case of the Safe House (2012) film, he was joined by the US-based production house named Relativity Media, which has also been cooperating with Universal for quite some time, including its recent release of the crime thriller titled Contraband (2012). David Guggenheim himself in the past worked as a journalist, while writing non-commercial scripts in his spare time, what was lasting for more than 12 years.

Mr. Stuber has made the first move to buy out the rights for the new Guggenheim’s story, before it could appear in the Black List. Perhaps, it was a wise movie, counting that it wasn’t difficult to bring in Denzel Washington to one of the Lead Roles afterwards. This actor, director, producer, director and screenwriter has played dozens of roles, including the ones in well-know action films and thrillers like Training Day (2001), Déjà Vu (2006) and American Gangster (2007).

A suitable director for this Safe House thriller was found in Sweden. Daniel Espinosa is 34 years old. By the time, when the filming was to start, he had already been known in the industry for his low-budget intense film about the crime world entitled Easy Money (2010). All of this later on led to the creation of the movie, where in its center a story depicting intelligence safe houses was unveiled. This places are often used by the agents to temporary hold suspects there, interrogate them or hide someone important, till another transporting team arrives.

However, the place of the original story in Europe was still shifted to South Africa, which opened up many perspectives for the new motion picture, including the opportunity to integrate the Green Point Stadium into the plot, which was built specifically for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In addition to reducing the cost of the filming process, the operators were able to find an abundance of all the necessary landscapes to play with the contrast of various Cape Town suburbs starting from the city’s centre and going deeper to the working quarters and the surrounding areas to make them look more realistic.

Intelligence service always watches

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The Fugitives

The plot of the Safe House movie uses many well-known genre cliches, yet definitely being inspired by The Bourne (2002-2007) trilogy, also exploiting the «guard-prisoner» theme to its roots. Just as in the 16 Blocks (2006) thriller starring Bruce Willis the main hero here shows his dissatisfaction with life and work, though obliged to carry on a challenging task of escorting a criminal to safety.

The script writer pays special attention to how the relationship between two main characters are developing, since initially they occupy the opposite sides of the conflict. Actor Ryan Reynolds in this title plays a young Harvard’s graduate named Matt Weston, who has been working for CIA in South Africa for several months. His job seems very repetitive, but easy, while he has to look for keeping the agency’s local hideout in perfect order.

In Cape Town he lives with his girlfriend Ana Moreau presented by a young French actress and singer – Nora Arnezeder. She works as a doctor, dreaming of moving to France, but knows nothing about the secret service of her boyfriend. The latter, in turn, looks tired of his routine office duties spending lonely time in a safe house waiting for any guests. Matt Weston is desperately waiting for another assignment from his superiors, hoping that the new place in Safe House will be closer to one European country, where his love interest was invited to work in.

However, everything changes rapidly in this thriller with the arrival of an ex-CIA agent now trading spy secrets becoming a wanted criminal for that. When Tobin Frost showing another brilliant performance of Denzel Washington enters the town, he has to evade a gang of assassins nearly forcing him to surrender to the U.S. authorities in the localAamerican Consulate office. Before moving him to another place, the officials decide to make him spend the night in a hideout managed by Matt.

There the CIA operative named Daniel Kiefer and played here by Robert Patrick endulges the prisoner to a brutal water torture for the interrogation’s sake. The following circumstances in the Safe House film made Matt Weston to become the only guard of dangerous Tobin Frost. Now the young man is in a difficult situation with the superiors not being of much help, a wanted criminal at hands ready to escape at any minute, and a gang of mercenary killers sent to eliminate him or them both.

The hitmen squad in this motion picture is led by a former military soldier known as Vargas, which was played by a Swedish actor Fares Fares possessing some Lebanon roots. Vargas is widely employing a group of ruthless African thugs, recruited by the movie creators from the local townsfolk. Similarly, this approach to involve locals in the filming process was undertaken by the Producers of the Big Miracle (2012) melodrama, when they attracted several Alaskan residents to the movie set.

Safe House also incorporates a list of famous names from the Film Industry, who might already be considered really experienced in this genre. Amongst them you will meet Sam Shepard playing the Deputy Director of the CIA named Harlan Whitford. He is also working with two subordinates managing their networks of agents including David Barlow and Catherine Linklater performed by Brendan Gleeson and Vera Farmiga from The Departed (2006), respectively.

The Irish actor Liam Cunningham represents a MI6 corrupt spy. In turn, the actor, singer and lawyer known as Rubén Blades, who ran for the title of Panamanian president in 1994, now takes the role of Carlos Villar, who is currenly a criminial selling fake ID papers for money.

Friends or Enemies?

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The first half of the Safe House story is endowed with all the features of a good captivating thriller. Some unexpected plot twists, the contradiction of emotionally strong and weak characters are completed with plenty of shootouts and occasionaly deep psychological conversations. All of this is quite capable to grab the attention of this genre’s fans. However, further on the pace of the narrative is slowing changing to a duel at a short distance, though not without a satisfying outcome. Meanwhile, the final action sequence still lacks the scale and intensity of everything seen in the beginning.

The picture is notable for not only its acting talents, but also for some remarkable efforts of the producers to make it as authentic as possible. Just for that a former CIA agent Luis Falcon was brought to the set to provide consultations mainly advising on how the interiors of a secret CIA hideout should look from inside. Even the medical kit here is filled with all the things that should be there, according to the formal procedure. In addition, for Denzel Washington this trip to Cape Town was not the first one. 25 years ago he went there to star in another Universal Pictures movie titled Cry Freedom (1987).

The rapid music for the Safe House motion picture was written by a German composer with Iranian roots named Ramin Djawadi. You might recognize his brand style using a lot of Guitar notes. For the Iron Man (2008) score he was nominated for a Grammy Award, though his tracks for the digital Fantasy action entitled Clash of the Titans (2010) were recorded with a different pattern to suit the required mood. He is also the writer of the music for such video games as Medal of Honor (2010) and Shift 2: Unleashed (2011).

This time Ramin Djawadi decided not to cheat on his creative habits. The 69-minute long official soundtrack relies on slow, quiet rhythms being unexpectedly converted into something fast, dynamic and intense. The premiere release of his new score album including 18 pieces from the movie took place in late January of 2012, and soon this set will be available on sale in many countries around the world.

GameScope Verdict

Safe House is a classical American thriller enriched with a Nordic soul brought by the Director’s vision of Daniel Espinosa. Though using many usual Hollywood stereotypes for this genre, its main notable credit, however, goes to the owner of two Academy Awards. Denzel Washington does a great job showing his character as an experienced psychologist being able to manipulate people’s minds to achieve any desired goals, and Matt Weston becomes a good test subject for that.

Safe House Trailer

Movie Score by GameScope:

7.5 / 10

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08.02.2012 | Movies | Alex "Jace" Ivanchenko
GameScope * Safe House * Movie Review
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