BLU-RAY REVIEW: Safe House
Denzel Washington & Ryan Reynolds in new suspenseful action thriller...
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Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds seem like an odd fit when considering two stars who'd make a good pair for an action movie. However, both compliment each other well in the latest suspense action thriller to hit home video: Safe House.
Low-level CIA operative Matt Weston (Reynolds) works a safe house in South Africa where his days are filled with "house keeping," keeping the facility ready and available for field agents who need a place to crash. Enter former CIA agent turned traitor and terrorist Tobin Frost (Washington), who has acquired a microchip and resurfaced after 10 years. When Frost turns himself in to the U.S. Embassy, he's taken to Weston's safe house for interrogation (aka: torture). Of course, as soon as the terrorists looking for Frost find out he's at the safe house, even a crack team of special forces soldiers can't keep him safe and it's up to Weston to help keep Frost alive long enough for the US government to find out what it is Frost knows.
While Safe House's plot and story may seem familiar, they are no doubt well written, well paced, and well acted throughout. The film contains elements of a thriller, a drama, a suspense, and an action film and balances each carefully, ensuring the plot unfolds with finesse and care. Viewers can relate to both Weston, a young man looking to find his way in a confusing, twisted, and seemingly honorable profession, and Frost, the experienced, jade rogue warrior who's been off the reservation for so long there's no going back. Together, the odd pairing grow together and their relationship grows from prisoner and guard to something which, at times, almost seems like a mentor and mentee...if the mentee doesn't mind the mentor beating him black and blue. Throughout the film, the development of this dynamic relationship, which often leads the characters to both work against one another and together to avoid capture, death and destruction, helps viewers stay engaged and interested and keeps the film flowing quickly from scene to scene. It is the relationship between the pair that makes the movie and, while the film may seem to reuse cliche elements of countless spy thriller action movies, it does so well, without making the viewer feel force fed.
The blu-ray includes an impressive gritty 1080p video which does an excellent job of capturing the explosive film. The dark scenery of Cape Town at night, complete with the florescent, neon and head lights looks gorgeous as do the daytime scenes are sharp and feature plenty of contrast. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is also great, though at times the dialogue gets drown out by the traffic sounds, gunfire, and explosions. The sound stage is filled with excitement and those with a quality system will appreciate Universal's work here as there's plenty to put you right in the middle of the action.
As for special features, this two disc set includes Universal's U-Control and Universal Second Screen Experience, which provides viewers the opportunity to use Picture-in-Picture (U-Control) or an additional device like a tablet, Mac or PC (Second Screen) to see interviews with cast and crew, additional footage, and more during the film. Additional special features include the 11-minute "Making Safe House," which features director Daniel Espinosa, Washington and Reynolds chatting about the film; the 8-minute "Hand-to-Hand Action," which highlights fight coordinator Olivier Schneider and his crew as they teach the stars how to use their bodies as weapons; and three shorts: the 5-minute "Shooting the Safe House Attack," the 4-minute "Building the Rooftop Chase," and the 8-minute "Behind the Action" - each one focusing on various action scenes throughout the movie. Additional special features include the 6-minute "Inside the CIA" which shows how the producers interpreted the modern day government agency and the 9-minute "Safe Harbor: Cape Town," which shows shooting on location in South Africa. Lastly, the film includes a bookmarking features so viewers can tag and share their favorite moments.
Overall, Safe House is a high quality spy thriller filled with plenty of intense action, drama, and characterization. While it may not be the most original, it's one of the most engaging of the genre in recent memory thanks in no small part to a great cast playing well written and exciting characters. I recommend fans of action thrillers like The Bourne films and other spy-vs-spy movies check out Safe House. They won't be disappointed.
Safe House is available now on blu-ray, DVD and digital copy wherever fine home video are sold.
- Jess C. Horsley