Do you know what the hands of a killer looks like? Apparently they’re a bit pale and tightly clinched showing years of age, stress and abuse. The hands of a man were clearly a topic during the planning stage for Safe House and well executed. From hands on the screen to the use of handheld cameras to increase the onscreen intensity, Safe House is a movie about the hands of a man, not the man himself.
Fans of The Bourne Ultimatum will love the tempo of Safe House. A rogue spy turns himself in and while trying to escape is hunted down by the other not-so-rogue spies. But this movie doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to feed you heavy exposition. The information you need to know is laid out in tiny nuggets with limited back-story. But this movie isn’t about back-story so who cares.
Young CIA agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), who I swore was named Michael until the credits rolled, starts out in an empty room bouncing a tennis ball off the wall like we’ve all done in boredom. A blooming relationship and the desire to move up in the agency fuels his drive at the start of this typical day. That soon changed as the cunning Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) crosses his path after turning himself in rather than face the fate of the men chasing him. He is transported to Weston’s safe house and the story begins there…which is after the first chase seen.
However, being a spy movie requires the customary scenes from some computer-laden super control room with a bunch of unknown analysts spouting out spy speak. Despite that, writer David Guggenheim simultaneously throws a shot, and pays homage, to spy movies by claiming they don’t have satellite imagery. Thank you!
The movie does a great job of cutting into the action some of the story that would otherwise be mundane for a movie like this. It kept the pace moving and allowed the story to develop with significant understanding at the same time.
But a large portion of this story wasn’t told through the lines of Washington or Reynolds, who both owned their characters, but through many shots of the hands of the characters in this story. Many scene transitions started from hand shots and moved up, explaining whose character was the protagonist or antagonist while also intuitively giving us an understanding of where they came from. It was an artsy approach that fit nicely with the grittiness of the fight and action scenes that were shot with a handheld.
Much of this movie take place in South Africa and does an amazing job of highlighting some of the beauty of that city. It reminds us of what we saw of the city from the recent world cup and served as a good backdrop for this movie.
If you’re looking for a movie you’d prefer to read, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a movie that starts with action, throws in a nice amount of calm moments to tell the story, has a reasonable character arc, a beautiful backdrop, an artsy and gritty approach with solid acting, this is your movie. Just make sure you enjoy the ride since the end is somewhat predictable.
You Time: A+
She Time: B
It has Denzel and Ryan Reynolds, she’ll be interested enough.
They Time: D
It’s rated R and is true to that rating. A lot of killing, violence and gun play, so it is definitely limited to kids who are used to it.