Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Safe House (2012) **

R, 115 min.
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Writer: David Guggenheim
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Rubén Blades, Nora Arnezeder, Robert Patrick, Liam Cunningham

“Safe House” started with a premise—have a green CIA agent in charge of a safe house where he’s to babysit one of the most dangerous men in CIA custody whose former CIA status gives him an advantage, and see if the rookie can keep him contained. Once they came up with that they seem to have ended the developmental process for the plot. It is an espionage picture that is content to be exactly what it seems to be and nothing more.

Part of what makes the espionage genre fun to watch is that nothing is ever what it seems. I suppose there are some elements here that fit that. There is corruption in the CIA, and if you can’t spot who it is within the first half hour, this must be your first spy flick. It’s so obvious what is going on here that you question whether it could really be that easy. That’s the only misdirection you’ll find here. Can it be as simple as it seems? It is.

The film stars Denzel Washington as the prisoner and Ryan Reynolds as the rookie agent. They make it fun to watch. The action sequences are well handled. There isn’t so much editing that you can’t fully understand what’s going on. My biggest problem isn’t really the predictability of the plot so much as it is the nature of Washington’s character. It seems to me there could be much more behind his motivations than there is, and there should be. He was obviously a skilled operative. The fact that he turned traitor isn’t unrelated to the developments of his current predicament, but the filmmakers never make a solid connection between the two periods in his life. He just went bad. How disappointing.

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