Safe House | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Safe House

Spies, mercenaries and double-secret spies clash in this action thriller


It may not be true in life, but it sure is typical in spy thrillers: There's inevitably a CIA within the CIA. Such an inter-agency spookhouse — those guys really can't be trusted! — informs the heart of Daniel Espinosa's action thriller. But those looking for a thoughtful parsing of such gray matter should look elsewhere. Safe House is no Tinker Tailor psycho-drama talkie, but rather two hours of various high-speed chases and shoot-outs, occasionally interrupted by a few words of explanation.

Life is dull for CIA newbie Matt (Ryan Reynolds), who is charged with minding an empty safehouse in Capetown, South Africa. Things heat up when a CIA crew drops off a "guest," a rogue player named Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), who used to be CIA. The safehouse gets dangerous fast, when mercenaries break in and shoot nearly everybody. (They interrupt a waterboarding vital to our security interests!) Matt and Tobin escape together; then they separate and spend some time chasing each other, before reuniting and getting into a deadly brawl with more CIA people.

Denzel is an old pro at this still-waters-run-deep sort of dude-drama, and I wish the film had given him more who's-zooming-who material rather than another chase and/or shoot-out. Reynolds, who more often stars in silly junk and rom-coms, acquits himself well as the greenhorn who gets a rapid education. (He looks really freaked out in some scenes, but that may be because he's sharing them with Denzel Washington.) The ending isn't very satisfying — with plenty of material left unresolved intentionally. Could be the nature of off-the-map spydom — or, more likely, an easy on-ramp for a sequel.