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If nonstop car chases, bloody shootouts and aggressive hand-to-hand combat — think of the Bourne film franchise and you're on the right track — are your idea of a rollicking two hours at the movies, then Safe House is the flick for you. For this complicated tale of a rogue CIA agent’s capture in Cape Town starts off with a bang and never lets up.
Denzel Washington is Tobin Frost, the legendary U.S. government operative who jumped ship 10 years before and began selling secrets to the highest bidder. He’s in South Africa to make a big score when all hell breaks loose. His only choice to survive is to head into the American embassy, where he is immediately arrested and taken to Cape Town’s secret CIA safe house for protection, to be held there momentarily before being returned to U.S. soil to face prosecution.
There he meets Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), a low-level newbie agent who's been waiting for his first safe-house guest for over a year, and has been bored out of his mind for months. Needless to say, all that changes the moment Frost enters his life, as he is brought to the house by a cadre of crack agents — who have somehow been followed there by a ruthless band of machine-gun wielding killers, who are out to end Frost’s life at all costs.
As the body count mounts, the blood flows freely and the mystery deepens, Weston and Frost escape the safe house and go on the run, bounding from one brutal, danger-fraught experience to the next. Their adventures are all shot in and around the beautiful streets of Cape Town, and beyond, which happily makes for an interesting travelogue unfolding in the midst of the action. There's a particularly terrific chase sequence through Langa Township's tin-shack ghetto; that, and the flick's outrageous, explosion-filled finale far out in the South African countryside are definitely worth the price of admission for adrenaline junkies.
Others who are less enamored of action for action's sake may find Safe House to be a bit predictable. For while the plot moves briskly along, there are some obvious tells throughout that make figuring out the twists and turns of the story almost child's play for anyone who loves the spy-thriller genre. But despite that, the performances are all believable, the action really is eye-poppingly good and overall this cinematic adventure is a breathless e-ticket ride at the movies.