2012-02-10

Safe House – Spy Games Inspired By Bourne

by Yo Snyder

The opening sequence to Safe House is so much fun that you almost
forget that you’ve seen all of this before. The self-assured, incredibly
talented spy staying one step-ahead of his pursuers. The eager,
inexperienced rookie still full of ideals and naivete as to how thing
really work in the clandestine world 0f espionage. The overseers in the
suits trying to keep an situation from getting out of hand. The set-ups
and the double-crosses, the car chases and fist fights, this all pretty
standard fare for this genre. And yet, somehow Safe House keeps the
tension and excitement high despite the fact it doesn’t stray to far
from the beaten path. This has everything to do with some strong
performances and mostly solid direction.

Denzel Washington simmers
with intensity in a role that, admittedly, he could do in his sleep.
Still, it’s awesome to see him play the ultimate spy staying one step
ahead of everyone else as he pursues his own agenda. It’s also great to
see him boil over every now and then as that rage that’s constantly just
beneath the surface of this character occasionally boils over. Denzel
owns this part, owns this role, and owns the screen every time he’s on
it in Safe House. Ryan Reynolds does his best to keep up, and
surprisingly does a pretty good job. Not only is he convincing in the
action sequences, but he’s convincing as a genuinely nice guy with high
ideals who gets in way over his head and as to deal with the fact that
not everything is quite as black and white as he thought.

However
those strong performances wouldn’t have worked if the action wasn’t
equally as intense; fortunately it is. I thought it was fairly amusing
that there a couple times when a gun went off in the movie that actually
caused the audience to jump. It’s testament to how the tight directions
keeps things tense throughout. Will none of this action is all that
fresh, it’s still done well enough and with enough of a gritty edge as
to not feel too derivative. Occasionally, however, the Bourne influence
of shaky camera to ratchet up the intensity stumbles into that too shaky
for it’s own good territory as there a few things where you can’t track
what’s going on. You know something awesome is happening, but you can’t
really see it, and that just isn’t good in a action flick.

The
other major disappointment is this movie can’t keep a secret. Part of
the formula for a movie in this genre is that you have to someone who’s
trusted turn out to be not trust worthy at all, rather they’re the ones
who’ve pulled the strings all along. Well Safe House tips its hand as to
who this is far too early and way too often, so there isn’t much of a
surprise when the inevitable reveal occurs. Safe House sticks so close
to the conventions of movies like this that it’s no surprise that it
happens, but I still would have liked to have been taken surprise by who
it was, but no, like a kid who can’t wait to tell someone what they got
mom for Christmas, this movie points out the bad guy early on and then
frequently throughout the rest of the story.

Now the MacGuffin for
all this chasing around and double crossing is a file that Denzel’s
character has acquired that has quite the list of dirty laundry on just
about every major intelligence agency in the world. Naturally no one
wants this stuff to get out, and so they do everything possible to
reacquire it. One character sums it up by saying, “What would you do if
someone was watching everything you do, even the moments you’re not
proud of, and you will have moments your not proud of, and they kept
track of all of that only to use it against you?” Obviously no one
really likes that idea, and truth be told, it’s the way a lot of people
feel about God. It’s commonly thought he’s the big policeman and judge
in the sky meticulously keeping track of our every screw-up so he can
cackle with glee when he uses all that information to condemn us to
hell. Well, the Bible does say that God is aware of everything we do,
and that it is all being recorded, but it also says that through Jesus
Christ we can everything, even the moments we’re not proud of, wiped
clean. In Isaiah 43:25 God says, “I, even I, am he who blots out your
transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” God
doesn’t want to “get you” with what he knows. He wants to exonerate you.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is what makes that possible. Yes it’s
true that we all have moments we aren’t proud of, yes it’s true that God
knows all about them, but it’s also true that he loves us so much that
through Jesus he wants to also wipe the slate clean.

Of course,
everything isn’t that black and white in the world of Safe House. No one
is safe, no one is trust worthy, and you never be sure what’s true and
what isn’t. It’s standard stuff for these kinds of movies, and this one
stays true to its name and plays things nice and safe when it comes to
the conventions of the genre. Still, the action it tight, intense and
has a visceral edge to. Denzel delivers once again, and even Reynolds
puts in a solid performance. For the most part, it’s all executed so
well that despite being so familiar, it’s still exciting, not easy to
pull off when one of the lead-in trailers is the very franchise that
this movie owes its existence to (they showed the trailer to The Bourne
Legacy
at the start, just so you know).