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SAFE HOUSE Blu-ray Review

 

Safe House arrives on Blu-ray and DVD this Tuesday from Universal. If you are a fan of stylish action films that make you think, than this film is for you. It has a great cast that includes Denzel Washington (Training Day, Unstoppable) and Ryan Reynolds (The Change-Up, Green Lantern) in this edge-of-your-seat game of cloak and dagger.

The supporting cast is equally stellar, and includes Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, The Departed), Brendan Gleeson (28 Days Later, The Guard), Sam Shepard (Black Hawk Down), Ruben Blades (All the Pretty Horses, Once Upon a Time in Mexico), Nora Arnezeder (Paris 36, The Words), Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgment Day), and Joel Kinnaman (The Killing).

Synopsis:

Tobin Frost (Washington), one of the CIA’s most dangerous traitors, resurfaces in South Africa after eluding capture for almost a decade. During his interrogation, the safe house is attacked by brutal mercenaries forcing rookie agent, Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) to take the infamous Frost on the run. As the masterful manipulator toys with his reluctant protégé, shaking the young operative’s morality and idealism, the unlikely allies must fight to stay alive long enough to uncover who wants them both dead. Packed with intense action and thrilling suspense, Safe House takes you on a deadly ride through a covert world where no one and no place is ever safe.

Safe House is not a Tony Scott movie, despite having a similar look and feel to Man on Fire. Daniel Espinosa (Snabba Cash) directed the film and Oliver Wood did the cinematography. While similar to Scott's directing style, there are many diffferences. The visual flavor of the film is very compact, from the fight scenes in alleyways and the safe house to the car chases with camera angels that are right in the actors faces. The South African locations and the use of natural light by Wood add some nice touches of warmth to the film.

David Guggenheim penned this Black List screenplay, which does a fantastic job of character development. This is something that surprised me, usually there is not much of that in an action film. If you can't tell from this review, Safe House is really more than your typical action film. I love the relationship between Frost and Weston, and its progression throughout the film. There is something to be said for a field tested veteran guiding a wet behind-the-ears rookie. We have seen it before, but Washington and Reynolds make it look great.

There are so many great action sequences from start to finish, that I found myself enjoying every bit of the film. The fighting styles are authentic and realistic and will keep your adrenaline pumping. What I love the most is that Safe House has a bit of everything for fans of action. There are compact hand-to-hand fight scenes, high speed car chases, and impressive gun fights. Big set pieces and locations are used over visual effects, which was a nice change of pace for me.

Universal has put a ton of extras on this Blu-ray that will keep you entertained for hours after the movie. While it lacks a commentary track, the disc has wonderful collection of behind-the-scenes footage and cast and crew interviews. I personally enjoyed the 11-minute "Making Safe House", which does a great job of introducing the audience to the team behind the film and the selection of Washington and Reynolds. I also liked the 6-minute glimpse into the recreation of CIA Headquarters called "Inside the CIA". The fight sequences get dissected wonderfully in the 8-minute feature called "Hand-to-Hand Action", "Shooting the Safe House Attack", "Behind the Action", and "Building the Rooftop Chase". If you had any question if the stunts were done by the actors or stunt men, these features put those questions to rest. The 9-minute feature called "Safe Harbor: Cape Town" gives us a look at the beautiful filming locations in Cape Town.

Safe House looks and sounds wonderful. The 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer makes the action sequences and cinematography pop off of the screen. The natural lighting and the grainy film look wonderful on my TV. The sound is equally stellar, with one exception. The disc features DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. This lossless sound mix is wonderful for the action sequences, but is hard to hear at times for the dialogue. Regardless, you will feel as though you are right in the middle of the action.

I highly recommend seeing this film on Blu-ray. Espinosa has smashed his way into the Hollywood scene with this film, and I hope that we see more of his work. I can never get tired of a Denzel Washington movie, and Ryan Reynolds plays wonderfully of of him. If you like action, espionage and beautifully shot films than Safe House is for you.

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