Going by cinemas alone, the end of awards season is rarely a clear cut line. Often, films that would appear to be clear contenders are released weeks later, while successful films can occasionally find themselves still showing and there’s always a simple looking action movie or two sneaking in between the tearjerkers and the pretentious. Safe House, it would appear, seeks to end that ambiguity.
This film doesn’t want to make you think, or leave you heartbroken. Rattling along a cocktail of adrenaline soaked action, it catapults you from car-chase to gunfight to brawl without breaking a sweat, leaving the plot, little that there is, dragging behind. Tobias Frost (Denzel Washington) is an ex-CIA agent that’s been missing for several years. When he finds himself pursued after a deal, he hands himself into the nearby US embassy and CIA custody, where he’s transferred to the nearby safehouse, maintained by Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), who then takes responsibility for Frost. Suffice to say they don’t just sit around telling stories and bonding. The plot has a childish simplicity which serves almost exclusively as a background on which to place yet more fist-fights shot by cocaine-addled shaky-cam. Despite the camerawork’s apparent developing drug addiction, the action here is still easy enough to follow and not destroyed by the rapid cuts that can often obscure what’s happening in similar films.
Washington delivers a calm and confident performance seeming charismatic as ever. Early on you see him tell the CIA agents they’ve got the wrong towels to waterboard him with, while in the observation room Reynolds is looking nervous and anxious. The concern of mine going in was that Reynolds would suffer in comparison to two-time Oscar winner Washington, but this seems to have been unfounded, if not largely because there isn’t really that much serious acting to compare the two in, with most scenes not involving explosions, guns or fistfights seeming to exist purely for you to catch your breath before the next one. Despite this, the two leads manage to maintain some form of rapport, bouncing off each other’s characters and also real life positions as teacher and student.
All in all, Safe House is the kind of film that feels like the cinematic equivalent of ice cream. It’s not the best thing you could have, nor the smartest. However, it’s perfect after the more meaty awards season, and its bloody good fun.