"It was never forced, never gratuitous."
Filmic portrayals of Africa are widely considered some of the funniest pieces of crap ever made, well by people who actually live in Africa. The fact that a massive and insanely diverse continent is never referred to in separate countries is also a long running joke – but I feel we do that to America so it’s fine. I watched The Interpreter again the other day. It was tough. So when I first heard about Safe House I was understandably expecting Denzel to ride from Cape Town to Durban on the back of a lion at some point in the movie. I was very wrong, and it feels great.
Safe House is not an outstanding film. It is, however, an outstanding representation of Cape Town. Most films set in an African country, especially South Africa, shoot themselves in the foot very early on by drawing too much attention to their setting. Safe House successfully avoids this pitfall by never treating its viewer like idiots or tourists.
Yes, you see our city’s shiny new stadium. Yes, you see a township. Yes, Ryan Reynolds speaks Afrikaans to South African cops. And yes, a white American lady says Joburg. Yet at no point did I ever feel uncomfortable. It was never forced, never gratuitous.
I guess the important thing I’m trying to get across here is that as someone who’s lived his entire life in Africa, (and I can say Africa because I’m actually referring to multiple countries within a continent.) I was willing to believe that what I was watching was something that could happen here. And I never felt disrespected. Also, the film wasn’t always kind to the country as a whole, and rightly so.
I did notice some huge inconsistencies in the grading of the footage and felt the framing was too tight. I’m interested to know if that was just the crappy version I saw since I had to watch it in an unmaintained South African cinema.