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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Reviews    Movie, Television and DVD Reviews  ›  Safe House Moderators: Nixon
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  Author    Safe House  (currently 446 views)
leitskev
Posted: February 18th, 2012, 6:18pm Report to Moderator
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Review time.

Spoilers will follow after the beep.

A mostly disappointing film, though well acted, and filled with edge of your seat action. A cheap knockoff of The Bourne Supremacy and 24.

Brief rant: Hollywood has replaced the 3 act structure with a 4 act. We have the beginning, the middle, the end, and standard premise which says western, capitalist countries are evil, none more so than those dastardly Israelis.  Man, these guys in Hollywood are as predictable as fat kids around hot dogs. Last rant, I promise.

Beep!!!

The opening: this is not how to open a film. It's exactly what we don't want to do as writers. Don't they question test audiences on these things? God. We start out meeting our protag, played by Ryan Reynolds, let's just call him Ryan. Ryan works for some company and it appears his job is going nowhere. He's been there a year, and no promotion. We know this because he calls his boss and begs for a promotion.

Where does he work? At this point, who knows. We also see him with his girlfriend in your save the cat cr** my pants stuff. The movie uses, as it does throughout the film, this annoying flash/real time merge technique. Man, is it annoying. They obviously are trying to use it to increase the pace of things, so they can get us the info they want without it seeming like they are throwing too many expository scenes at us. But it's awful.

After about 4 minutes, even though I was wide awake, I think I zoned off for a minute. I kept having this feeling I must have missed something during this personal black out. Zoning off in the early moments of a film is not a good sign, and I can't believe the test audiences didn't catch this. They should have put this in the middle of the film so they could sell popcorn.

I understand what they were trying to do. They want us to meet the protag, see him with his girlfriend, and know that his life is stuck in status quo. Classic film formula, paint by the numbers, STC. The problem is that in doing that, we spend the first 5 or so minutes of the film having nothing remotely interesting happen. I mean nothing. I am not saying we need to see action. But at this point, not one intriguing element has been added. I mean, are we intrigued to find out whether he gets the promotion in the job we don't know anything about? So what we have is set up without story engine. And then we move on to another character's intro. This is a poor approach.

Next we meet Denzel. We have no idea what he's up to. We assume he's a good guy just because he's Denzel. Otherwise we have really no reason to. In fact, he seems like a bad guy. He's selling information, or buying it, doesn't matter, since we have no clue as to the stakes. These are ex-Cia  agents, including Denzel, a shootout happens, we don't know what's going on. In order to get away, Denzel enters the American consulate.

Oh, did I mention they are in South Africa? Good, at this point in the movie, you don't know where they are for some reason, unless I spaced through that moment.

Denzel entering the consulate is what the STC people call the inciting incident. Yeah!! This is ultimately the thing which will lead Ryan, our protag, out of his status quo static go nowhere life. Though we don't know that yet.

We soon discover Ryan also works for the CIA, at the lowest of levels, manning a safe house...which is where the bad guys(the United States) take terrorists to be tortured and stuff. These safe houses are all over the place, but nothing usually happens in them, so working at one is like doing time. It's a dead end career.

But now our boy is going to grow up and get his big chance. We see Denzel tortured for information, and some expository scenes back in CIA HQ in the evil US of A, and then the REAL bad guys attack the safe house(don't worry; the real bad guys turn out to be CIA too!).

So Ryan has to escape with Denzel as his prisoner and deliver him to another safe house. Woo hoo! We have out character goal, and the end of act one!

And then everything going forward is a rock and roll edge of your seat thriller. Whenever you're tempted to fall asleep again, they wake you up with a loud, unexpected gunshot to someone's head.

The challenge for a film is to have a premise that intrigues us and reveals itself at the end. It has to give us just enough information that we really want to know what's going on, then tie it all together in a convincing way at the end. The big failure here is that the intrigue factor is very weak. It takes so long to care about what's going on that you don't care what's going on, if that makes any sense.

And then when we get to the end, it's your standard left wing fantasy. The Israeli's, spying on their allies, compile a list of all of their allies assets. So on this list are all of the spies and intelligence people that work for the US, Britain, France, Germany. And someone's willing to pay for that information.( Haven't we seen this premise before in one of those Mission Impossible movies? )

It turns out that someone willing to pay, and kill...is the CIA!! So the only people more evil than the dastardly capitalists in this film are the extra dastardly Israeli capitalists, who turn on their allies! Those SOBs! Sneaky SOBs! Come on, everyone knows no one can trust the Israelis? Right?

Oh, and we have cameo appearances by the wonderful Occupy People(who knew they were in South Africa?) who are protesting outside the consulate. Such nice people. And let's not forget Anderson Cooper! He's on at the end to help save the world. It was a fairy tale ending to a modern cliche...I mean film.

I bet they got some people with this trick, though. The bad guy looked like an Arab right out of central casting. I bet some folks were upset while they were watching, furious at this profiling. But, alas, he turned out to be an Israeli working with the CIA, so everything was cool, and we can sleep well knowing that no rules of stereotyping were broken. Jeesh.

There was one cool scene. for the first half of the movie, Denzel has an afro and a heavy goatee. Later, he needs to change his appearance, and trims all his hair, and emerging like a hero from a costume...Denzel Washington. I actually really did think that was cool.

Weird thing happened in the middle. For a brief moment there was a projector problem and the film slowed just enough to reveal this subliminal message we weren't supposed to see. It said "vote for O..." And then the projector straightened itself out, so I didn't get the rest, and had to guess. I think it said 'vote for Orange soda, because I got one after the film. That must be it. This must explain the popularity of orange soda. I knew there had to be an explanation.

Revision History (5 edits; 1 reasons shown)
leitskev  -  February 19th, 2012, 2:11pm
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Penoyer79
Posted: February 19th, 2012, 1:08pm Report to Moderator
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in other words... its mindless wall to wall action with a cop-out ending...
but...but....that NEVER happens in hollywood.

this movie lost me when they said Ryan Reynolds was staring in it. hahah Ryan Reynolds.... what a joke.

watching Denzel chew up the scenery makes pretty much any movie worth watching.. even if all he gets is a 1 minute monologue.

but Ryan Reynolds is just the "skip it" trump card for me.


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albinopenguin
Posted: February 20th, 2012, 2:53am Report to Moderator
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thanks for the review leitskev. to be honest with you, i was avoiding this one at all costs. i'll be sure to avoid it on netflix as well.

oh and penoyer79, ryan reynolds has the potential to be a decent actor. see "buried." the rest of reynold's films suck A** but buried is amazing.


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leitskev
Posted: February 20th, 2012, 8:31am Report to Moderator
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I've read the reviews, and the box office results, and it would seem I am once again in the minority. Most people seem to like this film, so take that into consideration. You will get your money's worth of raw action. And you do get Denzel. I think Denzel and Liam are in their own club when it comes to these kind of characters.

I don't Ryan's performance is all bad. At times there is way too much frowning and grimacing. Whether that is overacting or just directing, I don't know. It didn't really bother me, and overall I thought his performance was believable. I'm not a very good judge of acting, though.
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Andrew
Posted: February 24th, 2012, 7:34pm Report to Moderator
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Three action films stand out to me in the last few years:

- The Bourne Ultimatum
- Taken
- Collateral (that's a discussion in itself to judge the genre)

Now Safe House just didn't have the goods to be anywhere the standard of those films above, but it's serviceable enough.

To be fair, Kev, I don't think we're supposed to be hoodwinked re: his CIA job. To me, it was a case of showing him withholding the information from her rather than us. There was no attempt to hide this. They showed quite clearly that he's an agent who's not been battle tested, which is reinforced by the initial break in, where we see he's nervous. In addition to that, we see the fact he's wet behind the ears when he sees Denzel waterboarded.

One of my biggest disappointments was the small role that Robert Patrick had. He was wasted in that small role.

Denzel, as ever, was full of gravitas. He's oozes charm and backs this up with a strong performance. He doesn't have an awful lot to work with, but he gets every last drop out of what's there anyway.

Ryan Reynolds just happens to be too good looking for his own good. He's not a bad actor. I agree he was good in Buried. There's a difference between being a bad actor and choosing bad scripts/films. Granted, he doesn't look likely to give a performance like Ennis Del Mar, but then Heath was the actor of his generation. I digress. Point is that pretty boys tend to have to work harder to earn approval.


Quoted Text
And then when we get to the end, it's your standard left wing fantasy. The Israeli's, spying on their allies, compile a list of all of their allies assets. So on this list are all of the spies and intelligence people that work for the US, Britain, France, Germany. And someone's willing to pay for that information.( Haven't we seen this premise before in one of those Mission Impossible movies? )

It turns out that someone willing to pay, and kill...is the CIA!! So the only people more evil than the dastardly capitalists in this film are the extra dastardly Israeli capitalists, who turn on their allies! Those SOBs! Sneaky SOBs! Come on, everyone knows no one can trust the Israelis? Right?

Oh, and we have cameo appearances by the wonderful Occupy People(who knew they were in South Africa?) who are protesting outside the consulate. Such nice people. And let's not forget Anderson Cooper! He's on at the end to help save the world. It was a fairy tale ending to a modern cliche...I mean film.


You know, for many years the Brits were that dastardly villain. Don't you know it was a product of repressed anger towards Britain for the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis? It was payback for Eden's antagonism. You didn't know that? Sure you didn't. Why? 'Cos its as patently false as the odd assertion that this film demonises Israel and is part of Hollywood's propaganda program as an arm of the mass left-wing conspiracy to take over the world.

Kevin. Seriously. You need to stop projecting these absurd notions. If anything, Safe House established the intelligence community (as a whole) as the villain. Which is being kind because it failed to cultivate a villain at all. One of the problems with the film is that it never really endangers Denzel and Reynolds beyond a group of men (without any clear motivation beyond grabbing the file) working for a faceless entity.

Oh, and it wasn't Anderson Cooper. It was John King. You obviously don't know one CNN Trotsky-esque* reporters from another. I'm not even American, and I know my Anderson Cooper from my John King, just like I know my Sean Hannity from my Bill O'Reilly Now I don't mean to be rude, but whatever is the source of your irrational hatred of "the left" needs to be looked at. It's plainly ridiculous.

*I sarcastically refer to the reporters as proponents of Trotsky's world view.


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leitskev
Posted: February 24th, 2012, 8:55pm Report to Moderator
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It's possible I missed it if they did, but I believe they did not reveal he worked for the CIA until after the Denzel scene. When they transport Denzel to the safe house, we see Ryan there. Again, I could have missed it if they revealed that earlier. But if they did not, why not?

Even though I explained above, I'll indulge you with another stab at it. The opening sequence has the goal of introducing us to the protag and showing us his life is static and he is very frustrated with his job. That, and we see he loves his girlfriend.

They save the CIA revelation because they want a little shock effect. We are supposed to think he's just a regular guy with a regular girl, and he's frustrated with his lack of promotion in his career. And then we see he is CIA, and it puts things in a slightly different color.

I can understand the strategy. But there's a problem that arises. Since this opening scene was dull, the next scene has to be Denzel in an action scene. But they want Denzel to be a mystery to us. So that means we go, what, ten minutes at least, maybe 15, and we have little clue what the outline of this movie is: who to root for, who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, what any of them want, even where the story is taking place. My point was that this is not a way to grab an audience.

They could easily have shown that his phone call was to the CIA if they wanted us to know. Instead, if my memory is correct, and I was distracted so I could be wrong, but I believe they showed the CIA boss in some non-distinct outdoor corridor that gave no clue to his job. They were hiding it from us.

As far as the Brits being the villein, well, yeah. I am an Anglo-phile. But there are plenty of reasons to make the Brits the bad guys. Mostly, let's start with the Empire. No need to discuss the good and bad points of that historical force, but it certainly makes a convenient antagonist. Especially if films involve Irish, Scottish, Indian, Colonial American or South African history.

I believe the Star Wars empire guys had British accents. If you want empire type characters, it works. The accent sets them apart for the American audience.

Yes, I know the difference between Cooper and King. That the best you can do? Make you feel better? Considering their political biases, one can understand how one could easily be inserted for the other. But if that's the best you got on me, and it seems this is the first time you actually have a real "gotcha moment", instead of hurling the usual vague and impossible to rebut insults and characterizations...ok, you're entitled to your celebratory dance. Knock yourself out.

The writers of this story could easily have put the hackers of the intelligence agency in Russia or China, and there is much recent history of those nations trying to hack into our systems. Nope. Blame it on the Jews.

Anti-Semitism has long found a home in the intellectual left. Look at the Occupy movement. Numerous anti-Semitic posters at those rallies. I'm sure you've seen it on those lunatic political forums you hang at. You know darn well how the Left in Europe looks at Jews and Israel. It's absolutely no accident or surprise the story is written this way. Why do you think the Left really adores the Palestinians? Sure, they make cause with "the oppressed", but everyone knows what fuels things underneath.

The Left resembles dogmatic religions that force reality through their own self justifying ideological prism. That kind of blindness bothers me in any of its forms. I don't hate them anymore than I hate a fatwa declaring mulah. I just know they are a danger to the happiness and prosperity of the world.
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Andrew
Posted: February 24th, 2012, 9:27pm Report to Moderator
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Me at political forums? That was a rhetorical question. Nope, no political forums for me. Don't know where you got that from.

In the past you've equated the left (and now millions of people in Europe voting for parties of the left) to Hitler and his vision. It's getting embarrassing, Kevin.

Oh, and the whole left is anti-Semitic, you say? You do realise people are reading this, right? Again, these are rhetorical Qs.

What on earth are you talking about. I don't even want to know how you cooked up all this nonsense.

I can't be bothered wasting my time on a man so clearly devoid of knowledge - not to mention full of hate and evident frustration.

Have a nice day, Kev!



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Andrew  -  February 24th, 2012, 9:38pm
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CoopBazinga
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I think Kevin summed this one pretty well.

I do love a good action movie and this didnít disappoint although there were a few gaping plot holes and the fact it was evident thatÖ

SPOLIER

ÖBrendan Gleeson was the bad guy, who didnít see that coming.

Also found it strange that they never told us the audience where we was at the beginning, I was confused trying to figure it out and it wasnít until Denzel entered the American consulate that it became clear it was South Africa.

I think itís unfair to judge Ryan Reynolds on this one, he was matched up with some pretty stiff acting competition and he was always going to struggle. Personally think he was okay in this and a lot better than the horrible Green Lantern performance from last year.

Worth watching but Iím glad I didnít pay the money to watch this on the big screen.

Steve
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Electric Dreamer
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Caught this one on HDTV theater over the weekend.
What a yawner.

I had a hard time staying awake for this one.
Denzel does his best with the scraps he's thrown.

I'm so TIRED of the situation room melodrama in this espionage tales.
I.E. Let's get big name actors on a set for a week upchucking plot and orders. Meh.

This is the thing that Bourne-alikes clamber to like crackheads. Why?

The truncated story and shake and bake girlfriend didn't grab me...

Denzel gives himself up to feds.
Gets away from baddies, keeps Ryan around for laughs.
Denzel dumps Ryan. Ryan reunites with Denzel.
They go to another safe house together.
Another safe house betrayal.
Instant potato head villain reveal. Couple more shots. The end.

That's the WHOLE movie right there.

The Snabba Cash director can shoot a movie. No doubt.
I dug Kinnaman in that film and on the AMC series, The Killing.
The director uses him again, but here he's wasted as a cardboard cutout with a Glock.
He'll make a fine RoboCop, though. That Swede can act!

This is an overwhelmingly mediocre meal. Strictly hospital food IMO.

E.D.


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Dreamscale
Posted: November 18th, 2012, 11:51am Report to Moderator
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This finally hit HBO, so I finally got to see it.  So, was it worth the wait?

Hell no!  Very surprised how poor this actually was.  Very surprised $85 Million was spent on it - where the Hell did it go?  And, finally, downright shocked that it did $208 Million WW.  Unreal.

I didn't hate it, but it was dull, predictable, and brought nothing new to the table.  Denzell was good as he always is, but he was pretty much just Denzell here.  Damn, I was hoping for so much more.

I think Brett hit the nail pretty squarely on the head in his review.  We get all this star power sitting in a big room, acting intense, and that's it.  Why can't Vera Farmiga get a decent role?  Does she have to go back and do Orphan 2, or what?

There were intense scenes but nothing really seemed real or desperate to me and I didn't know any characters well enough to really care.  And how about Brendan Gleeson's "reveal"?  C'mon now...

A big letdown, but not a piece of cr**.  You can always do much worse than watching Denzell.


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