Sunday, September 16, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: Safe House

2012, Daniel Espinosa -- download

Espionage movies have been rebranded since the Bourne movies.  Paul Greengrass introduced a couple of style elements into a genre that had become lazy and unremarkable at the time.  Swedish director Daniel Espinosa picks up on those visual cues with this Tony Scott-style thriller starring Scott's go-to guy, Denzel Washington.  We take the tightly packed situation rooms of Greengrass, sleeves rolled up and young, bright eyed & nervous CIA analysts reacting quickly to standing, suited, older senior agents.  We add the over saturated, film grain added to digital camera work of Tony Scott.  Both were familiar with the tight action scene, up close, bodies slamming, dust flying, crunching and grunting. Together we get a familiar, enjoyable action flick, exactly what Hollywood ordered.

I grieve the loss of Tony Scott.  I liked what he did with a movie, because despite him producing easily digestible action movies, he was sincere to his own style and esthetic, and it was one I enjoyed.  I won't deny Espinosa being a good craftsman, for it takes effort to see something and reproduce it faithfully.  But I still would prefer something original.  I accept that there is never really anything new these days, and that Hollywood wants you to see something you already spent your money on, but still.... try.  I truly need to see his Swedish films before I dismiss him, but this was your typical gift-from-Hollywood vehicle, to test him out in that environment.  And interestingly enough he is directing a new movie that was originally given to Ridley Scott.

Washington is second runner in this movie, the supporting character Tobin Frost to Ryan Reynold's Matt Weston.  Weston babysits a CIA safehouse in Johannesburg and gets wrapped up in a plot when Frost escapes into an American consulate in the city.  He was a top CIA man before he went rogue, for reasons no one ever really knew.  He has important data and people want him dead.  Weston wants him alive to secure his career and reputation.  Young ambition vs older experience.  We have Washington finally playing someone a little older, a little more tired but still charismatic and capable.  There is a small exchange between Villar (Ruben Blades), an old contact and forger, and Frost where they chat about getting older, where your life becomes more about the past than what is ahead.  That could have been a chat about aging actors.  How much longer until Washington is that suited senior agent standing in a room manipulating the scenes, instead of being right in the gun fights?