In Short: Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a raw CIA agent responsible for a safe house in Capetown, South Africa. Unexpectedly, his long stretch of boredom is blown apart – almost literally – by the arrival of a notorious house guest: ex-CIA star and most wanted traitor, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington). Weston is propelled into an unwelcome starring role, trying to keep Frost safe – and a prisoner – while working out what secrets Frost has, and his pursuers are prepared to kill to acquire.
Good Stuff: This is an action move with believable action. Some of the car chase scenes are reminiscent of Bullitt (in a good way), and the hand to hand combat is well choreographed and – occasionally – painful to watch. Give those stunt men a bonus! Generally, the pace of the film is fast enough to keep up viewer interest. The cinematography, generally overlooked in such films, probably merits another viewing. Although there are some outdoor scenes, the overwhelming atmosphere is one of claustrophobia, and evil hiding in the shadows.
Washington is made for his role. He has the perfect gravitas to play hero turned traitor, and his relationship with Ryan Reynolds’ rookie character carefully threads a way between the extremes of feel good and bad bastards. Reynolds does a good job, too. He gets the action focus, but shows enough acting skill to merit further progression up the star spangled staircase of fame.
The Not So Good Stuff: The plot is thin. How thin? Does anorexic paint a picture for you? Yes, that thin. (However, the ending was a bit of a cliffhanger, so some redemption there.) There’s a love interest which, frankly, is a waste of time. And there are a couple of moments where the pace is too slow to maintain full interest.
Query: Safe House or Bourne Conspiracy?