Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Safe House


This starts out with an interesting premise from the spy business, something I would have thought impossible in that overworked genre. Like, I have often thought that Nikki (Julia Stiles) was one of the best characters in the Bourne movies. She was the grunt, the worker bee who ended up in deeper shit than she ever planned for when she joined the CIA. She was one of the ones that Chris Cooper and Joan Allen would point to and shout, in an authoritative, upper management voice, “I want you to do this, and I want it right now!

Here we have another grunt, Ryan Reynolds, who is in charge of a safe house in Capetown, South Africa. He’s bored out of his mind. There hasn’t been a damn thing for him to do for almost a year except keep the security TV screens clean. Then suddenly a big-time case falls on him, and the next thing he knows dozens of people are getting killed in his safe house.

It’s too damn bad they didn’t do more with this idea. It goes along fairly well at first, though with my usual complaints about shakycam and split-second editing (and I was overjoyed to see that one of the discussion threads at the IMDb was about that, and everyone agreed that shit is awful). But it got too damn predictable, and too damn stupid-violent. Stupid-violent is when a fight drags on for five minutes of non-stop pummeling, literally hundreds of punches and such landing, any two of which would put a human being on life support in intensive care. And predictable? I guess there are some spoilers ahead, but if you can’t figure this stuff out you must have never seen a spy movie. Like, as soon as we cut to CIA control center back in Washington, it was clear that someone in the room was a traitor, giving information to the people who were trying to kill Reynolds and Denzel Washington. There were only three people it could be, and I knew in five seconds who it was, and I was right. Predictable? When we first meet Denzel we’re led to believe he’s a CIA sell-out, off the reservation for ten years, and is just out to get ten million dollars. Do you believe that? I didn’t, either. Denzel? Not gonna happen. I was right.

I could name many other examples, but that’s enough. The “message” was that spying is a dirty business, and everyone betrays everyone else. I believe that to be true, and I also believe that around 50% of the shit spy agencies do is involved in covering their asses and the asses of important people above them. But it’s more of a Le Carre world, not a James Bond world. It’s backstabbing, not machine guns and karate and car chases.

There are some good car chases, I’ll give them that, not a lot more implausible than most movie car chases and wrecks these days … which is to say, after the first fender-bender any of these cars would never move again, but okay, they’re fun. And it was nice to see the South African locations. That was something new. Capetown looks quite beautiful. So, I had some fun, but I was snoozing though the last twenty minutes.