California Literary Review

Movie Review: Salt

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July 24th, 2010 at 12:05 pm

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Movie Poster: Salt

Salt

Directed by Phillip Noyce
Screenplay by Kurt Wimmer

Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt
Liev Schreiber as Ted Winter
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peabody
Daniel Olbrychski as Orlov
August Diehl as Mike Krause
Daniel Pearce as Young Orlov
Hunt Block as U.S. President Lewis
Andre Braugher as Secretary of Defense

CLR Rating: ★★★☆☆

Movie Still: Inception

Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt
[Photo By: Andrew Schwartz, SMPSP. © 2009 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.]


Straight-up action flick offers Angelina Jolie kicking ass,
a few smart scenes, and little else.

We’ve been inundated recently with publicity about Angelina Jolie’s spy vs. spy thriller Salt. Interviews with Jolie, producers, and other major players in the film industry have saturated the internet and everyone has something to say about the fact that Jolie happily and successfully took on a role meant for a man. Salt was originally set to star none other than Mr. Charm himself, Tom Cruise. When Cruise dropped out, humanitarian-“home wrecker”-action heroine Angelina Jolie stepped in. The film certainly benefits from a female protagonist; if not for Jolie, who wears hardcore action star-status like a bandage dress, the movie would’ve been an entirely forgettable summer blockbuster.

Salt opens with a torture scene: Jolie, stripped to panties and a bra in one of the only scenes to emphasize her gender, endures (mostly off-screen) punishment in a North Korean prison because the government suspects she’s a spy. They’re right, of course; Salt poses as a businesswoman but works for the CIA. When Russian defector Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) accuses Salt of being a Russian spy, the games begin in earnest. Orlov claims Russia has been raising generations of spies, trained from birth to eventually infiltrate the U.S. government. Their purpose: to catalyze Day X, a code name for the inevitable nuclear war between Russia and the United States. Salt, Orlov proclaims, is one of these home grown spies. Salt’s colleague Ted (Live Schreiber) defends her then betrays her; fellow CIA agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) immediately suspects her traitorousness but has to make a tough decision. The movie is a series of contrived twists, ridiculous chase scenes, impossible explosions, and muddled surprises. In other words, it’s a typical summer blockbuster.

By far the most interesting part of Salt is the fact that Salt is female. The film industry is all abuzz with Jolie’s bankability and versatility in typically masculine roles. Though she’s by no means the first female action star (consider Linda Hamilton in the Terminator movies, Sigourney Weaver in the Alien films, or Sarah Michelle Gellar in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Jolie has made it more than clear she’s eager to tackle the same roles as some of Hollywood’s most bankable actors. The movie would absolutely not have been the same had Cruise remained attached—it would’ve felt like a sad rip-off of the Mission Impossible films.

In Salt, the protagonist builds a gun out of household chemicals, a table leg, and a fire extinguisher. She jumps from semi to semi on a busy highway overpass like it was nothing special. She dons menswear and makeup to gain access to the White House (there’s a political metaphor there, but you can take it any way you like). She also removes her heels when she has to escape the CIA—which is completely necessary, as any woman who’s ever worn heels will tell you. She bandages a wound with a maxi pad. She covers a security camera with her black panties (this simple action would be awfully time-consuming for a man). She loves her arachnologist husband. When vacating her apartment just ahead of the CIA’s invasion, she packs her puppy into a backpack, climbs onto a four-inch ledge (a scene that’ll make anyone suffering from acrophobia shudder), and leaves the pup with a neighbor girl.

All of these things are silly. No one walks away unscathed from a chase that involves semi-jumping, a fifty mile-per-hour car crash, and a gunshot wound, but Salt does. No one gets away with this kind of double agency, but Salt does. The requisite “walking away from a massive explosion in slow motion while chanting choir music throbs beneath the basso thumping” scene is here, as are the outlandish government conspiracy theories.

Director Phillip Noyce, who also directed Jolie in the so-so thriller The Bone Collector in 1999, crafted a movie without many memorable features. Writer Kurt Wimmer, whose screenwriting career includes the flops Sphere (1998) and Ultraviolet (2006), has a heavy, awkward hand with dialogue. The twisty, tangled plot moves forward at a good pace until the third act, when things inexplicably slow down. James Newton Howard provides music that’s not bad, but not great either—and again, completely forgettable. Jolie is admirable in a role that would normally fall to someone with an XY chromosome, but it’s not her best role. Schreiber isn’t cut out for this kind of film. He’s proven his acting chops in quirky dramedies like Taking Woodstock, but he seems to have a tough time reciting the script when it’s truly stupid. Ejiofor is generally a fantastic performer, but he doesn’t have much to work with in Salt. That’s the gist of it: despite a good cast, a great lead, and a fun plot, the movie’s pretty unremarkable.

Salt is the first true summer blockbuster of 2010, and though it’s not great, it’s not terrible either. Salt is a fun but mostly unmemorable movie. If you’re looking for a way to zone out and suspend belief in physics and reality, it’s the perfect movie for a hot summer evening. If you’re interested in action movies starring women, you should definitely check it out. Otherwise, wait until the DVD release.

YouTube Preview Image

Salt Trailer

  • Nicol

    SALT is the most horrible movie I’ve ever seen.

  • Kara

    SALT IS THE BEST MOVIE I’VE SEEN THIS SUMMER!…

    From the opening credits, you could hear a pin drop in the packed theatre I was in located in Manhattan, NY. The girls next to me exchanged excited squeels. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and will be going back a second and third time! I love the way the movie ends, and Angie’s fight scenes are as fierce and believable as her acting!… it’s not often you get to see an actress of Angelina’s calibre helm an action thriller without another male counterpart steering the action. Angelina has reached a new level with her action films, and seems to have already made hollywood history! Go Angie!

  • Barton Fink

    I think it needs to be mentioned that Jolie is a polarizing actress. Some people like her, others don’t. I don’t, and I’m staying away from the movie because her labored walking and her two or three throwaway facial expressions don’t work on me — she’s the same character in every movie, and I grew tired of her long ago. I think it was watching her stomp around in that car-stealing movie, or Tomb Raider.

  • http://calitreview.com/ Julia Rhodes

    Barton Fink,

    You’re right, she is a polarizing actress, but I fall on neither pole. I love her in Girl, Interrupted, but haven’t cared much for the action movies she’s done. I won’t avoid a movie because she’s in it, but neither will I race to the theater for her. I just think it’s interesting she took a role meant for Tom Cruise and did a pretty awesome job with it. Had Cruise done the movie, it would’ve been a terribly boring flop (a lot of critics are already saying it was with Jolie, and I can’t blame them, though I didn’t hate it).

  • Karen

    Sorry all but the movie Salt is great!!! I was so sad that the movie ended. This women is a great actress!!! Keep up the good work and thank you!!!!

  • Myra

    Great action movie! Yes we do want the ‘protagonist’ to get out of it without a scratch. Its a fictional movie! As for jolie, we havent seen a female action star in years unless she was partnered up with a male lead. It was fun watching her knock everyone around without the help of a second or third character. Hollywood needs to make more leading female action movies. ‘Anything he can do She can do better!’ Ha ha.

  • Norbert

    Sorry for all easy to please movie goers but this movie irritated me and didnt stop. Anyone can act as good as Angelina. The surprises in the movie were as typical as a tennis ball flying into a mans crotch. Lots of confusing activity in the movie, I Hated it.

  • apkl

    Jolie is too skinny and her lips look unnatural. Creepy.

  • Jomar

    This is awesome…. I like it from the first I saw the traileer of the movie….
    Wow

  • oldandfat

    I don’t understand who the infant was and who were those parents…was that the same as the little girl whose parents were killed in a car crash…

  • http://www.davidrholsinger.com DavidRH

    What a great piece of entertainment! My wife and I both enjoyed it for the romp that it was! We weren’t looking for serious filmnoir . . we just wanted to see “Bourne Revisited” and that’s exactly what we got! We bought the CD when it hit the market and every once in a while when we just want to enjoy a wild spy shoot/em up, with lots of explosive noise, it goes in the Bose . . . Great ending. We hope there IS a Salt II somewhere in the future. And just for the record, we’re both Phd’s in the Classical Arts, with no junk cars in the front yard and not a single NASCAR t-shirt in our closet.

  • nhl

    You guys are kidding, right? There’s tonnes of action movies, complete with the espionage thing, out there better than Salt.

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