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"Safe House": Shaky Cinematography Blurs Action 

Wednesday, Feb 8 2012
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In Safe House, Ryan Reynolds plays Matt Weston, a junior CIA agent assigned to babysit a safe house in Cape Town. He's dying to be transferred to Paris, where his adorable girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder) is scheduled to take a job. But his boss (Brendan Gleeson) tells Matt he needs to prove himself. Then an extremely high-value "guest" checks into the house: rogue agent Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), who has apparently been trafficking in global intelligence secrets for a decade and has just survived an attempt on his life. He's escorted into the safe house by a CIA crew who—to Matt's wide-eyed surprise—starts water boarding their detainee as soon as he's "safely" inside. When the guys hired to kill Frost show up and interrupt the interrogation, Matt escapes the ambush with Frost in tow. Grainy and hyper-saturated, Safe House has the distinct look of deliberate "amateur" cinematography, taken to its abstract limit by Bourne series DP Oliver Wood's handheld, zoom-happy camera. Most of the fight and chase scenes register not as action, but as blasts and blurs of vivid color. Is this accidental or an acknowledgement that scrutability is not a paramount value of the contemporary action sequence? Either way, after one duel, Reynolds has a line of dialogue recapping his injury to the man who inflicted it.

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Karina Longworth

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