Then, the lights cut. The back-up generator kicks in, but that's also what a larger group of heavily armed men does to the doors. Cut the exposition, cue the explosions.
From that moment, "Safe House" is a chase movie. Matt is trying to bring in Frost, or get him to the next safe house. Frost is trying to escape. And a whole multi-culti group of bad guys, under the control of some unknown mastermind, are trying to do evil things to them both. It's all presented in energetic style, sort of Bourne Lite. Indeed, cinematogapher Oliver Wood and editor Richard Pearson are veterans of that rogue spy series.
Speaking of rogues, back in Langley, there are many, many recriminations, until Farmiga and Gleeson are on a plane to South Africa to join the chase. Matt and Frost have frank and useful discussions, fistfights, gunbattles. "I only kill professionals," Frost sneers while making one escape from his would-be minder.
But the new guy learns fast. Soon, it's Matt who's mowing down hapless bystanders, such as security guards and police who quite understandably try to detain him after seeing him pull a gun on Frost. Matt has got to get his captive back, whatever it takes _ after all, how else will be get promoted?
There are some advantages to this espionage game. Just like bankers don't need to lie awake at night wondering whether they've sold out, spies don't have to lie awake wondering whether they're sold out their friends and families. Matt gains such valuable insights as he bounces around Cape Town and environs with Frost, as leaving bodies behind them like bread crumbs.
Those striking settings provide some of the few original notes in "Safe House," along with the implication that the most murderous of the gunmen on their trail is an Israeli. For, of course, all is not as it seems. There's a villain on the inside. Hard man Frost learned his attitude the hard way, killing innocents for supposed national security.
David Guggenheim's script offers those sorts of minimal surprises. But it also gives Washington a chance reframe his pedestrian lines. Predictably deriding Matt as an innocent and a "flag waver," Denzel ends the line on a rising inflection, as though he were about to say more but suddenly thought better of it.
Those moments almost offset the car crashes and combatants slithering around in blood. But you can safely wait for "Safe House" in the comfort of your home via cable.