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Film / Safe House

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Watch out! Denzel is right below you.

Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA rookie who is manning a safe house in Cape Town, South Africa, when Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) the CIA's most wanted rogue agent is captured and taken to the safe house. During Frost's interrogation, the safe house is overtaken by mercenaries who want Frost. Weston and Frost escape and must stay out of the gunmen's sight until they can get to another safe house.


This film provides example of:

  • Almighty Janitor: Played with Weston, given that his task in the CIA, as a low-level agent, is "housekeeping".
  • Ambiguous Situation: It is unclear whether Whitford is implicated in the corruption or is simply trying to keep the public from learning about its extent at the end of the movie.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Weston, in the end, decides to defect from the CIA and go rogue, just like Frost once did, although it's hinted Frost had different motives behind his defection.
  • Batman Gambit: Frost walks into the American consulate and tells the guard his name, knowing he'll be red-flagged and taken into custody, allowing him to stay out of reach of his pursuers; presumably knowing they would come for him later, affording him a chance to escape from both.
  • Big Bad: David Barlow is ultimately revealed to be this. He is Vargas' employer, and is personally incriminated by the data in the file, leading him to arrange for its retrieval.
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  • Break Her Heart to Save Her: Weston to his girlfriend, on the advice of Frost who insists that he won't be able to maintain a normal relationship with all the lies the job requires. Implied to happen at the end as well, but on much better terms, as she smiles when seeing him in a cafe as he walks away.
  • Broken Pedestal: CIA to Weston. It starts early when he witnesses Kiefer waterboarding Frost, and gets much worse when he discovers that Frost is on the run from their assassins who are covering up their corruption. Barlow is a personification of this, being known and respected by Weston.
  • Car Fu: Right after escaping the first safe house, Frost tries to wrestle control of the car (or knock out) Weston. Weston uses the fact that he's buckled up and Frost isn't to knock the latter out via crashing the car.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Zigzagged. The CIA is both trying to protect Frost AND kill him at the same time, and the villains are all a number of agents within it that have decided that they can do whatever the hell they want to safeguard America... and their own asses.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Nearly every character in the movie is this. Frost uses ambush tactics to make kills easy and quick and Weston grabs everything around him when he fights someone, to the point that he borders on One-Man Army status when he takes out a room full of cops... while handcuffed.
  • Dead Star Walking: Robert Patrick's character is killed off early on.
  • Defector from Decadence: Weston, deciding to go rogue and try to expose the CIA Black Ops. Frost is an arguable case—he says it was because of it, but the movie never really supports it to 100%.
  • Dirty Business: The reason the CIA wants to kill Frost and recover the chip.
  • The Dragon: Vargas is the psychotic CIA agent that leads the assassination team after Frost, and answers directly to Barlow.
  • Escort Mission: Weston's mission is to get Frost to the alternate safe house for extraction by the back-up team. His repeated attempts to escape and the hit-squad pursuing them makes this increasingly difficult.
  • Fallen Hero: Some in the CIA consider Frost to be this.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: CIA Deputy Director Harlan Whitford, who is the leader of the evil agents.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Sub Committee: A newsreel at the end implies that Whitford is going to face exactly this after the end of the film; certainly there have been media calls for it.
  • Inspector Javert: Linklater is quick to assume that Weston switched sides and is helping Frost and takes the fact that Weston couldn't prevent Frost from running away and decides to keep pursuing him afterwards as proof he's gone rogue. Barlow reassures Linklater that this may not be the case so she decides to go to Africa with him to help with the case, and this allows Barlow to shoot her in a very desolate road in the middle of the savannah.
  • Important Haircut: After Tobin manages to escape from Weston, he cuts his unkempt hair and shaves his face, also signifying the change in narrative from the conflict between them into the conflict between them and the rogue CIA elements out to kill them.
  • Information Broker: Alec Wade, who sells Frost the flash drive.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Weston does this to a mook to try to figure out who's after them. It's the CIA.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Tobin Frost. As soon as Vargas and his team begin their assault on the safe house, he wastes no time attempting to screw with Miller. It doesn't work. He then proceeds to spend the entirety of his and Weston's escape doing the same thing to him. It works this time, partially because everything he is saying happens to be correct. He's stated in-universe as having "literally re-wrote the book" on agency interrogation protocols after successfully interviewing and flipping high-value subjects.
  • Master Forger: Carlos Villar.
  • The Mole: Barlow, Weston's mentor and his ardent defender at CIA HQs.
  • Mole in Charge: Barlow, The Deputy Director of the CIA.
  • Not So Different: Frost tells Weston that the latter is a better man, but it's clear they have things in common. Frost offers a lot of genuinely good advice throughout the film based on his own experiences as a young agent, and Weston ultimately defects and leaks the file to the media.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Weston realizes his "last minute reservation" is Tobin Frost!!
    • Another one from Kiefer and everyone in the safe house when the power shuts off.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Frost saves Weston at the climax and passes him the intel that he's been hunted down for, knowing that Weston will do something better with it, and then passes away from his wounds.
  • Red Herring Mole: The seeds are planted early on that Linklater is the mole trying to kill Frost until Barlow suddenly shoots her dead revealing it was him all along.
  • Rogue Agent: Frost. Weston later on. Even if the movie goes far into showing that they both did it for the same reason, it's implied that Frost was the dirtier of the two.
  • The Scapegoat: Just as Frost predicted, Weston realizes the CIA HQs (specifically Whitford and Linklater) are trying to put the blame on him for the safehouse breach and Frost's escape.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: Frost lets off a gunshot right next to Weston's ear, coupled with a throat punch; which effectively disables him.
  • The Spook: Tobin Frost was THE spook and is still regarded as a legend in the agency years after he supposedly turned traitor.
  • There's No Kill Like Overkill: After he subdues and shoots one of the mooks who had just murdered his friend and his wife, Tobin pumps another few bullets into him.
  • Torture Technician: Kiefer, a CIA agent, waterboards Frost.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Barlow shooting Linklater, revealing himself as the mole.
    • Two more in-universe: The first, when Kiefer removes Frost's hood, revealing his identity to Weston. The second is when Barlow shows up at the second safe house... with Vargas.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Carlos Villar introduces Frost to his wife, daughter and son-in-law when Frost goes to him and arrives around dinner time. While his wife is seen being shot when Vargas and his team show up, it's unclear if his daughter and son-in-law were killed as well or had left for the evening before then.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Tobin Frost, again, is a master at this. After being attacked by one of Vargas' goons in the restroom, Frost rightly assumes that there are more waiting outside to kill him and take the file. He persuades a pimp to switch hat and coats with him and walk out the front, taking the bullet meant for him while he and Wade escape out the back. After Wade is shot and crashes their getaway car, Frost ends up fleeing on foot then ducks into the U.S. Consulate when he's cornered.


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