'Safe House' Review: 'Bourne' Lite – Great Taste, Less Filling

Name this movie: An ace CIA operative, condemned as a rogue and now hunted by the Company, bashes and crashes his way through colorful foreign settings, pursued by heavily armed hit men, while back at Langley headquarters an inscrutable deputy director and one of his top lieutenants are arousing the suspicion of another officer, a woman, who’s starting to wonder why her two bosses are so intent on terminating this troublesome renegade.

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Yes, it does sound like a “Bourne” movie, doesn’t it? But no, this is “Safe House,” with Denzel Washington taking over for Matt Damon, Sam Shepard replacing Scott Glenn as the steely Agency overseer, Brendan Gleeson in for Brian Cox as the dodgy controller, and Vera Farmiga stepping into the Joan Allen role as his straight-shooting subordinate.

The picture has a familiar swarming hand-held visual style, thanks to cinematographer Oliver Wood (who shot all three “Bourne” films) and editor Richard Pearson (who worked on “The Bourne Supremacy”). At one point, an agitated spook even yelps out a demand for remote surveillance with the words “I want eyes on this!”–a line previously yelped by David Strathairn’s agitated spook in “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

“Safe House” may be faux Bourne, but for those counting the moments till the release of “The Bourne Legacy” next August, it might seem better than no Bourne at all. Swedish director Daniel Espinosa has a flair for action staging–the one-on-one fight scenes, agreeably many in number and often set in confined spaces, are smashingly effective. And first-time screenwriter David Guggenheim has usefully adjusted the Bourne template. Here, Washington’s character, Tobin Frost–nominally the Jason Bourne figure–isn’t an unwitting innocent being set up by his shadowy CIA masters; he’s an actual traitor who has been selling Agency secrets for nearly a decade.

Read the full review at Reason.com