While working for the CIA may seem like a dream job, Matt Weston's (Ryan Reynolds) current position at a Safe House is certainly no picnic. He's a new agent, stationed alone in South Africa, waiting for the chance that he will have a "house guest" (someone who is taken prisoner by the CIA.) Matt's desperately trying to get some field experience so he can be stationed in some other city where he can see a little action. After a year of boredom, his wish comes true when Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) arrives.
I was constantly on the edge of my seat throughout the film, and felt everyone in the theater being equally enraptured with what was unraveling before our eyes. Safe House has high-stakes moments cut with sardonic, nonchalant comedy that Reynolds and Washington both pull off nicely. I felt connected to everyone's struggles, but the plot kept me unsure if I wanted the good guy or the bad guy to come out on top. To find out why Safe House exceeded my expectations, just keep reading.
When Tobin enters the picture, we have absolutely no context of who he is or what he is after. It's not until a CIA team is briefed back in the States that we learn exactly what Tobin Frost is all about. He's a notorious rogue agent, an expert manipulator wanted for espionage in a number of countries. He's brought to Matt's safe house, a seemingly secure location, but soon after he arrives, the safe house is compromised. Matt has no protocol for this situation, and he's forced to leave with Tobin and attempt to secure him in a new spot.
While the film is filled with fight scenes, car chases, and violence, there is a certain underlying heart. Everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong for Matt, but he ends up coming back on top time after time. Despite the fact that Tobin is his prisoner, the two form a tight-knit, bizarre bond that effectively develops throughout the film, never feeling rushed or forced.
My biggest gripe with the film is how chaotic everything feels. I had no clue whether we were in Johannesburg or Cape Town half the time, but there were beautiful panoramic views of South Africa to hold it all together. I also would have loved to have seen more from the ladies in this movie. Vera Farmiga plays a somewhat jaded government agent, but we never really get any background information on her struggles. The same can be said for the beautiful Nora Arnezeder, who is mesmerizing as Matt's girlfriend.
Safe House is gritty, emotive, and does everything a good thriller should. There's a well-written conflict laying the foundation for a ton of crazy car chases and some pretty brutal fight scenes. While Safe House is certainly not the first film to delve into the underbelly of government intelligence, it delivers an intriguing message: don't trust anything just because someone "important" says it's so.