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Safe House

When Tobin Frost, the turncoat CIA agent played by Denzel Washington in Safe House, was described as an “Expert manipulator of human assets,” I briefly hoped (eternal optimist that I am) that I might be in for a thriller indebted to Midnight Run, with Washington in the Charles Grodin part of a prisoner scheming to make use of his captor, a peace agent tasked with protecting him from bad guys who want to kill him. (That this would put Ryan Reynolds in the Robert DeNiro part was something I was willing to overlook.)

Alas, ’twas not to be. Frost has been captured in Capetown, South Africa, after a decade selling the agencies secrets around the world. He is taken to a local CIA-run “safe house,” so-called because it’s unknown to the local authorities. It’s certainly not safe for anyone brought there, as a scene of Frost being waterboarded makes clear.

But when the international baddies who want to kill Frost break in, he’s spirited away by Matt Weston (Reynolds), an untested young CIA employee looking to make his mark so he can move on to bigger things.

From then on the film is pretty much a non-stop chase around Capetown and its outskirts as the pair try to make it to a rural safe house while evading the killers who always seem to be one jump ahead of them. Had I been given the film any real thought I suspect I would have guessed who the bad apple in the barrel was, but Safe House is not the kind of film to tax your brain. Shot in hypersaturated colors with what can only be called a caffeinated camera, director Daniel Espinosa (a Swede laying out his resume for a lucrative career directing American action films) only lets the racing and violence slow down for brief snatches of cynical exposition to the effect that the entire international community is rotten. If Julian Assange does a top 10 list this year, expect this to be on it.

Watch the trailer for Safe House

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