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July 22, 2012
Safe House Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
9/2/20127/6/2012UniversalDaniel Espinosa
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MDenzel Washington

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Washington and Reynolds in Safe House.

Safe House was a film that, despite my somewhat indiffernt feelings towards the two main actors - Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, was a film that looked interesting enough thanks to a solid trailer. While we never saw the film in cinemas we were quite happy when Universal shot us a copy to review.

Safe House is an action-thriller in which Denzel Washington plays Tobin Frost, the most dangerous renegade from the CIA, who comes back onto the grid after a decade on the run. When the South African safe house he's remanded to is attacked by mercenaries, a rookie operative (Ryan Reynolds) escapes with him. Now, the unlikely allies must stay alive long enough to uncover who wants them dead.

Running for 115 minutes Safe House is pretty much non-stop spy/action from start to finish and as such can feel a little long at times, but action fans (and that includes myself) will love the intensity of the action with gunshots that really have some 'meat' to them, some brutal fist fights and entertaining car and on-foot chases.

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Checking the video screens in the safe house.
What I dislike about the action though is that, yet again, directors rely on shakey-cam and quick cutting to add to the "excitement" of action sequences. Argh!? I'm sick to death of filmmakers using this as a technique. It never allows you to appreciate the action at it's best and it's why the recent Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol was so entertaining - you could actually make sense of the action sequences.

In this day and age we understand the economics of keeping a movie rating to maximise box-office dollars, and with $US202 million this was a pretty big success, but Safe House feels like it needed to up the violence levels a little bit. So many times people are shot, but it's off camera and to me, in such an action heavy movie, that's disappointing. How about an Unrated edit on Blu-Ray?

Safe House is a decent action film with some good set pieces, but ultimately lacks a memorable story that can take it to the next level.

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Denzel Washington as Tobin Frost in Safe House.
Safe House is presented on Blu-Ray at the films original 2.35:1 aspect ratio using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. The film isn't one that "pop" off the screen with a glossy look but rather has a gritty, grainy, down to earth look with extensive use of shaky-cams which suits the tone of the film quite well but doesn't lend itself to being a "demo" Blu-Ray. Contrast levels too are variable but colours often appear overly vibrant. Most importantly the film retains a high level of detail at all times thanks to the bitrate which often overs above 30Mbps according to our PS3.

Also very impressive is the audio in Safe House which has a primary English track encoded in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (24-bit/48Khz). Just as you would in real life you'll jump when something unexpected happens - and that includes gunshots, car crashes and explosions. Not only does it sound cracking but the film has some very aggressive, and impressive, use of surround sound channels. Occasionally though during the chaos and action dialogue can get a little lost - but that's excactly as you would expect it to be in real life.

Beyond the primary English track this Blu-Ray includes French, Italian, German and Spanish DTS 5.1 tracks at 768kbps as well as an English Audio Descriptive Video Service encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192kbps. There is certainly no issues with quality in any of these tracks (although obviously not as impactful as the main English track).

Subtitles are provided in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Swedish. We sampled the English track and found it to be quite accurate to the on-screen dialogue.

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Car chases in Safe House impress.
This disc starts up with a nice (skippable) trailer celebrating 100 Years of Universal films. Running for 2.28 it has clips from dozens of Universal's biggest films over the last century.

U-Control (HD): Certainly the biggest and best extra on this disc is U-Control which is essentially a PIP window with interviews and commentary or Scene Explorer (where you can see production art or B-Roll footage) which plays throughout numerous sections of the film. There's a tonne of great informationa nd behind the scenes information in this extra and is a fantastic second viewing of the film whcih will offer a lot more insight into what the filmmakers were aiming for when making the film.

Making of Safe House (11:16/HD): It's rather promotional but provides plenty of on-set footage and interviews with those involved in the making of this film.

Hand to Hand Action (6:13/HD): Fight co-ordinator Oliver Schneider is highlighted in this featurette which looks at the fighting sequences in the movie.

Shooting the Safe House Attack (5:17/HD): This is a look at shooting the Safe House attack sequence and how they went for "emotion" over excessive gore. Containing some good on-set footage and interviews it's worth a look but hardly the most detailed behind the scenes look ever.

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It's the Terminator himself, Robert Patrick.
Building the Rooftop Chase (3:59/HD): These extras keep getting shorter and again this contains some nice on-set footage and interviews focusing on this impressive set piece. Too brief though.

Behind the Action (8:00/HD): This is a more generic look at all the action put into this film from the car chases, to the shootouts, to the hand-to-hand combat. Although brief this is an impressive featurette worth looking at.

Inside the CIA (6:07/HD): To me, this was the pick of all the extras as it ties the movie to real-life safe houses. The CIA is obviously quite a closed spy organisation but this featurette looks at how the film recreated the CIA operative look and style including interviews with CIA Technical Advisor on the film, Luis Falcon III, who worked as an undercover CIA agent, including in safe houses, for 30 years.

Safe Harbour: Cape Town (8:51/HD): This final featurette look at the South African city of Cape Town and how it became such a feature in the film.

Fans of Denzel or Ryan will be pretty happy with Safe House as they both get ample screentime however it really is an action flick with a less then memorable story. Fortunately Universal's Blu-Ray transfer is quite spectacular and with a smattering of extras this is a release worth checking out.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Universal. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.