Blu-ray review: Safe House with Denzel Washington

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Reynolds plays Matt Weston, the “housekeeper” of a C.I.A. safe house in Cape Town, South Africa. His shifts consist of watching security cameras and playing catch with himself, and he yearns for a job that’s more exciting. Excitement comes in the form of Tobin Frost, notorious for engaging in worldwide espionage after an aborted stint with the C.I.A. An attack on the house leaves Weston the only good guy alive to ensure Frost’s safety until he can be handed off to the folks at C.I.A. headquarters, including Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga and Sam Shepard. The kicker is that Frost has a file containing harmful government secrets, and we don’t quite know what will come of it (although you can probably guess). This all leads to fast-paced, exciting action sequences that are the highlights of the film.

Director Daniel Espinosa, behind the lens of his first American motion picture, stresses in the Blu-Ray extras how focused he was on his characters. Much appreciated, Mr. Espinosa. Tropes and all, it’s still clear that the main players in Safe House have depth. Washington and Reynolds work well opposite each other, portraying people at the far ends of the spectrum — Washington's smart-ass veteran detractor to Reynold’s idealistic young patriot. It’s been done, but it still works. And the screenplay by David Guggenheim gives the pair crisp, witty things to say to one another and all the incoming bad dudes.

Like the movie itself, the Blu-Ray extras are nothing fresh yet still worth watching. I spent more time browsing through them than I have with any other movie in recent memory not directed by Christopher Nolan. The key to successful bonus features is keeping them brief but insightful, and Safe House hits the mark with its various behind the scenes video packages. Especially interesting is a feature on the choreography of the fight scenes, and a detailed “making of” extra. There’s also a Blu-ray feature called U-Control, which allows the viewer to watch the movie with video-filled commentary boxes popping up in the corner of the screen throughout. Unless I missed something, U-Control is basically a higher-tech version of watching the movie with cast and crew commentary. It’s the same idea, now with B-Roll to go along with the audio.

While some may have seen plot twists and hidden character motivations coming well before they're revealed, I was too invested in Safe House’s story to get ahead of it. Again, Safe House isn’t setting a new bar for future spy actions, and that’s OK. It does the job by being super entertaining.

And what’s been done before in Hollywood also has been done before on Creative Loafing! For additional enlightening reading, read fellow Loafing movie critic Anthony Salveggi’s review on Safe House from earlier in the year when the film was in theaters. We share similar thoughts on the movie; though, as it seems to be the case with many films, I ended up liking Safe House a little more. I opted to overlook those pesky plot holes and formulaic nature of the film in favor of having a good time. Mr. Salveggi, on the other hand …

There is absolutely nothing original about Safe House. The characters, story and cinematography all take a familiar path that we know from countless espionage thrillers. Much like main character Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), a fugitive C.I.A. agent who is surprised by little and impressed by nothing, audience members may come away from Safe House with an apathetic “been there, done that” attitude.

This was not the case for me, however. Is anything in Hollywood truly original anymore? Most everything has been done before, so is it so wrong to find enjoyment in a clichéd movie that's well executed?

The casting of Washington and Ryan Reynolds in the lead roles certainly makes the forgiveness easier.

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