Safe House

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Safe House Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Interesting characters clash in extremely violent thriller.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 115 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie's main theme is a clash between experience/cynicism and youthful optimism. The conclusion is that both ideals can exist at the same time and that it can be detrimental to focus on just one or the other.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Matt Weston is a youthful optimist who's hankering for some action and a chance to prove himself. He's a bit reckless, and he eventually has no qualms about killing people in self defense, but he also risks everything in order to do what he thinks is right. His perseverance rubs off on a few other characters.


This movie is a non-stop chase, with lots of shooting, deaths, and blood. There are explosions, car chases, car crashes, knife fights, strangling, and fist fights. Characters are stabbed with shards of glass. There's an intense scene of water torture (a wet towel is placed over the victim's face, and water is poured on top to simulate the feel of drowning).


The main character's girlfriend follows him into the bathroom, removes her clothes, and climbs into the shower with him. Viewers see kissing, but no graphic nudity.


Surprisingly infrequent for this kind of movie; "f--k," "s--t," "hell," and "ass" are each used a couple of times.


The character talks on an Apple iPhone every so often. The Apple logo is visible at least once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Denzel Washington's character enjoys fine wine. Viewers see him drinking it twice, more to savor the flavor than to get drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Safe House is an extremely violent action thriller about how a young, optimistic CIA agent deals with a seasoned, cynical renegade. Expect lots of guns, killing, and blood, as well as car crashes, explosions, fights, and even torture (water boarding). There's a minor scene of sexuality, but no graphic nudity. Language and drinking are both infrequent (though the former does include both "f--k" and "s--t"), and consumerism is limited to one character's use of an Apple iPhone. Teens may want to see this if they're fans of stars Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, but it's not age appropriate for younger viewers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJaclyn S. March 16, 2018
Parent of a 9 and 11-year-old Written byHoosier10 February 14, 2014

Too much prolonged violence

Ryan Reynolds and Denzl Washington are pretty good in this. But, it's the typical violent (over the top violence), macho "lone wolf" who can sur... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byZekew224 March 2, 2012

Good One to try as a Teen (13-16)

First off, let me tell you this is a great movie. I saw it today with my dad, I'm 13, and we both loved it. It was the first R movie I had seen in theaters... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bymike0018 June 10, 2012

pretty good + no cursing

Sure it's an action movie so there's pretty constant killing/guns. I watched it friday night and I only head s--t and a-- no more than 3 times....the... Continue reading

What's the story?

Though Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) works for the CIA, he hasn't seen any action in a year. Stationed in Cape Town, South Africa, he basically watches over a "safe house" -- a fancy apartment where suspects can be held and questioned. Suddenly, a longtime renegade agent, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), decides to turn himself in at the U.S. Consulate, and he's taken to Weston's safe house. Before long, thugs with guns break in and try to kill everyone in sight. Matt decides that it's time to hit the road and keep moving until help arrives. This isn't an easy task, as the bad guys are everywhere, and the crafty Frost keeps trying to escape. Can Weston figure out what Frost's game is?

Is it any good?

A pair of relative newcomers, writer David Guggenheim and director Daniel Espinosa were in charge of SAFE HOUSE, and their inexperience shows. Though the movie has a vicious, inky look, it also has junky, hand-held camerawork, with crazy shaking during action scenes. The script includes such old-time chestnuts as a mole within the CIA and a secret file with the names of all the corrupt agents in the world.

But at the movie's core is the very interesting, opposing relationship between the leads, the seasoned, cynical Tobin Frost and the young, optimistic Matt Weston. Washington and Reynolds genuinely click into their characters and provide several shades of grey between them. They clash in intriguing ways -- sometimes visually, sometimes in dialogue -- and their meeting of minds is by far Safe House's most interesting element. It's too bad all the "normal" stuff couldn't have been jettisoned in favor of deepening this relationship.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Safe House's violence. Was it necessary to get the movie's point across? Which scenes were thrilling, and which were disturbing? How does the impact of what you saw here compare to the kind of violence in a comic book action movie?

  • Tobin believes that no one is to be trusted and that everyone will eventually betray you. Matt has a lot more hope for goodness to prevail. Is there a happy medium between these two attitudes?

  • Do you think organizations like the CIA are susceptible to corruption in real life? Why might some aspects of working there be exaggerated in the media?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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