Salt

by | Jul 23rd, 2010 | 7:18AM | Filed under: Movies, Theatrical Reviews

Angelina Jolie gives great femme fatale—she knows when to coolly work those stern, alien features and when to cut loose with the ferocious hellcat routine. In Salt, Our Lady of Destruction punches, kicks, crashes and cuts a wide swath of mayhem—but she also makes this silly “serious” spy romp a bit of fun.

It never hurts to have a secret weapon.

The vast majority of big-star, stunts-and-effects blockbusters fall into a yawning gulf of mediocrity; of bland, kinda diverting, sorta watchable, mildly entertaining “eh, okay.” After all, they can’t all be Inception (or Inglorious Basterds)—a lot of them are Prince of Persia. Or Knight and Day. Or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Giant films with plenty of the flash and dazzle and the loud and pretty and maybe even a few actors doing their charismatic best amidst the chaos. But in the end they leave you feeling you’ve just been rolled down a hill in a barrel of cats and firecrackers—cats with really straight, white teeth.

Salt could have been another of those hollow monstrosities—it’s full of stunts and car crashes and the Big Twists now mandatory in every mainstream action film or thriller. A wildly implausible spy romp, it exists for no other reason than to make a lot of noise… and money. But Salt has a secret weapon: Angelina Jolie.

Jolie comes at these kinds of fantasy roles with more than just straight, white teeth—she also has those lips, those cheekbones, those eyes, that razor-blade cracked-whip confidence. And it doesn’t hurt she can also act. Even when she’s kicking it (literally) in summer fuzz, Jolie has that predatory wink in her eye that says, “I know it’s light-weight fluff, but I still fully intend to stomp 100% of your butt.”

Hollywood could always use improvement when it comes to decent roles for women (later today, as part of Chicks Who Rock week, I’ll be looking at four new indie films that happen to feature strong female characters), but let’s stop for a moment and think about how far we’ve come that an Angelina Jolie can exist and can play so hard, so fearlessly—and yes, so glamorously—with the Big Boys in box-office friendly comic-book larks like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Wanted, and now Salt (a role intended for Tom Cruise, but re-gendered for Jolie). I’m no Jolie super-fan, but there’s no denying she’s changed the game for females in action films (all while still doing nuanced work in serious dramas like A Mighty Heart and Changeling).

As for Salt, it’s a fairly run-of-the-mill super-spy flick—not so much the gritty realism of the Bourne films as the physics-ignoring swagger of the Mission: Impossible or Bond movies. (A character even sports the latest in Rosa Krebs footwear.) It seems the Russians are coming… again: The Cold War’s heating back up with a plot to destroy America by way of a series of assassinations by deep-cover sleeper agents. (If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Sony set up the recent bust of the Virginia-based Russian spy ring as a brilliant PR stunt for Salt.)

Nobody Does it Better

But spin-kicking it above “watchable” and into actual “fun” is Jolie as CIA officer Evelyn Salt, who may be a double agent. Or a triple agent. Or just a regular gal who wants to settle down into a nice married life with her German arachnologist husband. Whatever the case, Salt is forced to open multiple cans of whoop ass when she’s identified as a Russian mole by a defecting KGB bad guy.

So our heroine hits the road (and any cars or security guards on it) to prove her innocence. Along the way she seems to let herself periodically get caught by various factions just so she can engineer yet another high-octane escape. That also means McGuyvering some homemade weapons (her CIA training clearly included the James T. Kirk seminar on how to use found items to hand rig a Gorn-stopping cannon), and sporting various disguises. (Jolie works the Dr. Zhivago Russian-fur look like she was born on the Volga. Though as much as Salt changes her hair, there’s no hiding that narrow, sharply drawn face—if she really wants to alter her looks she should eat a cheeseburger.)

It’s also not a bad idea to have a couple back-up secret weapons, and Salt benefits from the involvement of Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the CIA and National Security bosses hot on Salt’s trail. I wouldn’t be opposed to have both actors in every film. Schreiber has his I’m-tougher-than-I-look suits, that icy warm smile and those sneaky eyes; and Ejiofor matches him in the more-than-meets-the-eye category, his broad, thoughtful face never leaving you sure whose side he’s really on.

As directed by journeyman Phillip Noyce (The Harrison Ford Jack Ryan movies, The Quiet American, The Bone Collector with Jolie), Salt never slows down—it’s full of running and yelling and lots of jumping and hanging from the edge of things. But thanks to Ms. Jolie, all the boom-boom-pow that overloads and unbalances so many other summer action flicks doesn’t topple this one. Even as it descends from the implausible to the ridiculous, in Angelina’s neck-snapping hands Salt remains just-give-up-and-go-with-it enjoyable.


26 Responses to “Salt

  1. Fiirvoen
    Posted on July 23, 2010 at 9:32 am

    You’ve probably just raised my expectations too much for me to enjoy it. But I’m glad to hear it’s not bad. I was trying to decide whether I even wanted to see this at all.

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    tammy miles
    Posted on July 23, 2010 at 9:46 am

    angelina jolie

  2. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on July 23, 2010 at 9:51 am

    I don’t want to raise too high of expectations–for the most part Jolie makes a routine action flick something easily enjoyable.

  3. moviegoer123
    Posted on July 23, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    It sounds like a good film.

  4. matphoto
    Posted on July 23, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Hah, I was never interested in this movie because all I got from the trailers was that it was a spy movie with Angelina Jolie, and that was it. I guess that pretty much explains it.

    • Currently 4/5 Stars
    Stannibal
    Posted on July 24, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Angelina Jolie is one of those rare female actors that looks completely comfortable on screen with a firearm in her hands. Enjoyed the movie, but Evelyn Salt is no Jason Bourne. Here’s to hoping that the sequel is titled, “Mrs. Dash.”

  5. Jennifer Sci Fi Friend
    Posted on July 25, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    After the disappointment I suffered in watching the supposed “Sci Fi” Inception, Salt was the perfect pick me up. Mindless action fun. Who cares about “the implausible to the ridiculous”??? The pacing of the movie was good, not too long and very enjoyable. A perfect summer flick to me.

  6. kathy sweglar
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 4:00 am

    i want to see this movie

    • Currently 4/5 Stars
    MELVIN LISTER
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 7:19 am

    It is my pleasure to say that I saw this film. I went with the initial impression after seeing promotional footage that it looks interesting, so I was curious. Even with having a genuine respect for the acting abilities of Ms Angelina Jolie, I didn’t expect the great experience awaiting me. This is a great movie!! Filled with action, suspense and outstanding acting with a very strong supporting cast. Any one would be doing themselves an injustice not to see it. Much to good of an movie to wait for the DVD. I left the movie saying to my wife “that’s a bad chic” no dis-respect :-)

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    Regina
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 7:35 am

    I enjoyed this movie, it was action from beginning to end; you didn’t have any boring gaps. I can’t wait for the sequel. I guess you can tell I’m an Angelina fan.

  7. JGM
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Went for both the Gorn and the McGyver reference, I see. Fascinating.

    So, OK, I liked this a little less than you. The minimal (or at least unobtrusive) use of CGI was refreshing, but the movie hovered in that tough zone between realistic action (a la the Jack Ryan films) and fun escapist fantasy, and suffered from the dumb PG-13 violence limits. And — note to screenwriters — ambiguousness about a character’s motivation does not constitute a “twist”.

    However I agree about the secret weapon: my daughter put it this way – “if it had been anybody but Angela Jolie in that movie it would have been dumb”.

  8. moviegoer123
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 11:35 am

    I saw the film and it was decent.

  9. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I know, JGM… I’m like a kid in a candy store–I see an opportunity for BOTH a McGuyver AND a Kirk reference and I just can’t choose!

    But I agree overall that Salt teetered between attempted “realism” and ridiculous escapism — but for me Angelina was enough to tip it toward enjoyable.

  10. jackie
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    i saw the movie and was a little confused. in the beggining when shes tied up why is she there and what happened? also like whn the guy came did she know tht he was going 2 come and what was going to happen czuse she kept saying im not a spy 2 her partners? was it just all part of a plan? and also did she not get caught becaus or she would get in rouble by the master? cause she also didnt killl him fully thts y she used a spider. and also didnt she want 2 start living in america with her husband who she met? but did she know that ths day was coming and everything?

  11. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Jackie [ALL SORTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN SALT!]

    At the start, Salt is a CIA officer who was captured by the North Koreans — she had been assigned by the CIA to befriend the German spider scientist and got captured and tortured. She kept denying she was a spy to the North Koreans at the start, but she WAS a spy for the CIA. The scientist was the one who worked so hard to arrange her release by the North Koreans–a couple years later they were married.

    [MAJOR SPOILERS!!!]

    Salt and her boss, the Liev Schrieber character who met her when she got out of the North Korean prison, did NOT know that each other were Russian sleeper spies until the very end, right?

    And yes, Salt turned AGAINST the Russians after North Korea and decided to ignore her Russian training and just live in America with her husband. But she got dragged back into it in the film. She did NOT know the day was coming–she knew a day like that MIGHT someday come (it’s what she was trained for by the Russians) but she didn’t know when or any details about the plan until she was told on the barge.

  12. KS
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    What is CGI?

  13. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Computer-Generated Images, KS

  14. marzieh sajadian
    Posted on August 3, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    i saw the movie and i liked it a lot

  15. jackie
    Posted on August 4, 2010 at 1:41 am

    ok thank you so much this helps a lot!!

    [SPOILER ALERT] so in the beginning then was she sent to spy and they caught her?

    yea they did not know that eachother were spys till end. but i think he knos she is one after orlov comes and tells her she is a spy.

    yea that makes sense thank u!! also though did she keep running from the police because she wanted to see her husband and because she knew there would be danger and consequences to her if she did not follow what orlov said?

    • Currently 4/5 Stars
    Aleida Jimenez
    Posted on August 4, 2010 at 3:41 am

    this movie was real cool I usually see things coming but this movie surprice me alot!!

    • Currently 2/5 Stars
    Michael T
    Posted on August 4, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Oh PLEEEZZZEEE… what a bunch of crap. A great spy thriller this ain’t. No way this movie rates even close to being the “B” side of “Three Days of a Condor” of even “The Spy who came in from the Cold” (you say you never heard of Richard Burton? OH God I must be old).
    The plot to “SALT” sucks. Within ten minutes of walking into the movie we all know the movie’s main goal is to set us up for a sequel.
    And Angeline COULD have made it “betta” – had she undertook say 6 months of 12 hr a day hard martial arts (even Aikido would have been better: At least Segal movies have a sense of battle field realism). All this movie’s fight scenes were were just had a bunch of cut shots… a lil piece here – a lil piece there. Jason Bourne the woman ain’t baby.
    So why did I go see the movie then? You are kidding right? I mean IT IS ANGELINA JOLIE right… and I am a GUY right. Hell I’d pay even to watch those gorgeous mounds of sensuous woman-flesh walk down a street… ANY street.

  16. over 60
    Posted on August 5, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Saw movie. It was weak. Lots of action but overdone. Plot is lost at times but it was not hard to guess who the key guy was.
    Would recommend with low expectations.

  17. jackie
    Posted on August 6, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    why does she keep killing everyone though? and her teacher? is it because if she does not then they will do more harm? n escapong from police is it to kill other russinas?

  18. Chris
    Posted on August 6, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    This movie was wonderful!!!! A must see if you like Jolie!!!

  19. eernest4
    Posted on August 16, 2010 at 9:19 am

    thanks for the heads up on salt. I will look forward to not going to the movies but rather, renting it from red box! Oh yeaa, I’m a fan of any jolie action movie!