A love letter to Cape Town

2012-02-10 08:22

Though handsome Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds has done his fair share of comic book action films such as Blade Trinity, The Green Lantern and as Deadpool in the X-Men series, he is better known as a comedy and romcom man from the likes of The Change-Up, The Proposal and Definitely Maybe.

His first foray into the action thriller genre though brought him to Cape Town and gave him the chance to work with an old hand in the arena – Denzel Washington.

“You learn a lot from everyone you work with and Denzel is an interesting and charismatic guy who has been doing this successfully for many years,” said a gracious Reynolds on a phone line from Los Angeles.

The initial thrill of being offered an interview with the man who held People’s Sexiest Man Alive title in 2010, was somewhat dampened by the fact that it would be on the phone and would be over in 10 minutes.

I didn’t even have time to ask him about his impressive abs, I just didn’t think I’d built enough of a rapport with him to start asking what he bench-presses.

Reynolds, soft-spoken and polite, had only good things to say about Cape Town’s world-class filmmaking facilities.

“I sort of shocked myself – I am always shocked to see a place as far away from Hollywood as Cape Town that has such filmmaking facilities.

“I have been doing this for 22 years and the crews were professional and organised. I am sure more and more films will be made in Cape Town.”

The difference though between Safe House and other films that are shot in Cape Town is that this one is actually set in the city.

“In Safe House the city is a character in itself. Usually it’s been utilised in another way, to look like another place, but this film really embraced it. In some ways, it’s a love letter to Cape Town.”

It features a whole lot of the city, opening with an idyllic view of the city bowl and harbour (as well as a gratuitous Reynolds’ torso shot), before taking the audience on a helter-skelter race through the city’s busy streets and alleyways, through Green Point Stadium and across Langa’s rooftops.

It fills its action quota admirably and even without the Cape Town angle, it would draw the Friday night movie crowd.


Safe House tells the story of a rookie CIA agent, Matt Weston (Reynolds) in charge of a sleepy safe house in Cape Town.

Out of the way, it is dull and uneventful until a top-priority CIA target turns himself in and is taken to Matt’s house.

Once there, all hell breaks loose and Matt finds himself in charge of the infamous secret seller and interrogation expert Tobin Frost (Washington).

Preparing for any role, Reynolds says, has its own challenges and with this one it was getting the truth, not the version of reality we see in the movies.

“I approach every subject differently. This one I had to learn about agents, what they do, not the glamorised version but the guy who hasn’t been able to tell his wife and kids what he does for 25 years and how that feels.”

Reynolds pulls off the role of the guy suddenly faced with the reality of the career he’s chosen well, capturing the balance of fear, adrenaline and his slightly rusty training that keep him in play.
 
With a multitude of twists and turns, director Daniel Espinosa has made a more than competent genre film that required Reynolds and the rest of the cast to do many of their own stunts.

“There’s the way Daniel shot the film, it’s very hard to let someone else do it with such close-ups. I did a lot of it myself, but obviously I was very careful,” he says.

“The fight scene with the other agent took three days to film. A tough three days.”

Safe House is a safe bet for Washington too. It will suit his legion of fans who will get exactly what they expect from this well-seasoned on-screen gladiator.

Reynolds has been acting since he was a teenager, but his first big TV break came with the 1998 sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, followed by Van Wilder, a comedy so crass I have never forgotten it.

Ten years later, he has a slew of high-profile roles behind him and another five in the works, including his ownX-Men movie, due for release in 2014.

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