Salt

Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman is a professional film critic from the Washington, DC area. A charter member of the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) as well as the Washington Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), Dustin has published over 2,000 movie reviews and has been quoted in print advertising, magazine articles, on DVD covers, and in television commercials. www.dustinputman.com

© Dustin Putman

This isn't saying much considering what a dubious season it has been, but "Salt" is just about as accomplished in the action department as any film released so far this summer. It's a pure exercise rather than a fully developed narrative, but director Phillip Noyce (1999's "The Bone Collector") and screenwriter Kurt Wimmer (2009's "Law Abiding Citizen") keep things moving with tight pacing, competent stunts, well-choreographed death-defying moments, and a plot that gets to the point and then leaves the viewer guessing for the duration. Because the characters are pawns within a chess game rather than distinctly three-dimensional personalities, and because interest hinges so heavily on not yet knowing their intentions the first time around, the picture will likely not have much replay value. Nevertheless, the initial experience is preposterously fun, free of the heavy exposition and bloated clunkiness of Christopher Nolan's recent non-dreamlike farce of the subconscious "Inception."
/img/placeholder.gif?aHR0cDovL2k1OTYucGhvdG9idWNrZXQuY29tL2FsYnVtcy90dDQ1L2dldGZyYW5rLzA3MjYxMC9zYWx0Mi5qcGc=CIA officer Evelyn Salt's (Angelina Jolie) plans for a romantic evening celebrating her wedding anniversary to husband Mike (August Diehl) are shattered the moment Russian defector Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) fingers her as a top-secret spy planning to assassinate the Russian president while he attends the U.S. vice president's funeral in New York City. Evelyn is adamant that she's being set up and, with the help of some sneaky maneuvering, goes on the run from colleagues Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Even as Evelyn touts her innocence, she mysteriously moves ever closer to Manhattan—only the first stop in Orlov's plan of terror to take down the country.

/img/placeholder.gif?aHR0cDovL2k1OTYucGhvdG9idWNrZXQuY29tL2FsYnVtcy90dDQ1L2dldGZyYW5rLzA3MjYxMC9zYWx0NC5qcGc=No motion picture named "Salt" should pass by without the story-thickening introduction of a nemesis named Pepper, but the opportunity is a missed one (so is, for that matter, the use of Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It" on the soundtrack). Indeed, the film hasn't much of a sense of humor at all—a shame, since the whole thing is rather silly once all the puzzle pieces come together and Evelyn's true motives are revealed. Taken on its own respective terms, though, the picture works. Suspending one's disbelief is a must, especially as Evelyn jumps from the top of one tractor-trailer to the next across a bustling highway in a bid to escape authorities, crashes a car off a bridge and walks away unscathed, leaps from a moving subway train, and infiltrates two highly-guarded political functions. Director Phillip Noyce, aided in no small part by the committed, physically intense performance of Angelina Jolie (2008's "Wanted"), accepts these plausibility leaps and, thus, help the audience buy into them as well. It doesn't hurt that the viewer is too busy, anyway, trying to figure out what side of the fence Evelyn is playing on. Is she truly not guilty, is she a conniving Russian villainess, or is she something in between? Seeing how the question marks are answered is a big reason why it's so diverting.

/img/placeholder.gif?aHR0cDovL2k1OTYucGhvdG9idWNrZXQuY29tL2FsYnVtcy90dDQ1L2dldGZyYW5rLzA3MjYxMC9zYWx0My5qcGc=Regardless of whether Evelyn Salt is "good" or "bad," she certainly isn't morally clean, risking (and losing) the lives of loved ones, committing fraud and theft at every turn, and forced to deceive a great many people in the name of pulling off her scheme. She's got a conscience, no doubt—a small bit where she must give away her pet dog quietly suggests her instantaneous loss of identity—but is she someone worth caring about? Angelina Jolie renders the query moot, embodying a fascinatingly enigmatic character whose flaws and mistruths are part of her make-up. No matter what she's doing, the actress ensures that it seem real. With so much of the production centering on her, the supporting cast are able, but have little to do. As friend, coworker, and sudden adversary Winter, Liev Schreiber (2010's "Repo Men") is typically reliable, holding the screen when Jolie is off of it.

/img/placeholder.gif?aHR0cDovL2k1OTYucGhvdG9idWNrZXQuY29tL2FsYnVtcy90dDQ1L2dldGZyYW5rLzA3MjYxMC9zYWx0MS5qcGc="Who is Salt?" the tagline for "Salt" reads. By the end, you'll have a concrete enough answer to confirm that a sequel—of which there is a setup for one—probably wouldn't be the best idea. The novelty of the film is in wondering all along if Evelyn means well, or if she is a ruthless spy and assassin. Without this mystery, the appeal would wilt and a continuation would have no choice but to become more generic, a cross between James Bond and—shudder—2002's "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever." As a standalone feature, however, "Salt" is fitfully rousing and intriguingly evasive, crafty if not particularly deep. Like its agile title character, it keeps on truckin'.

/img/placeholder.gif?aHR0cDovL2k1OTYucGhvdG9idWNrZXQuY29tL2FsYnVtcy90dDQ1L2dldGZyYW5rLzA3MjYxMC9zYWx0LW1vdmllLXBvc3Rlci5qcGc=Salt

Directed by Phillip Noyce.
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski, August Diehl, Daniel Pearce, Hunt Block, Andre Braugher, Olek Krupa, Cassidy Hinkle.
2010 – 100 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence).

 
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  • Vishaka says
    Waiting eagerly for this one!! looks like an awesome flick!
  • Hippynz says
    can't wait
  • This looks like a really good movie. There's a game and competition on http://www.sonypictures.co.nz/movies/salt/dayxexists/site/ - try it out!
  • TTT says
    Russian Spies are really in the USA. Who said the cold war was over? This is Great timing for this movie to come out.
  • "preposterously fun, free of the heavy exposition and bloated clunkiness" - What is this guy on?

    I think the obvious conclusion is that Salt IS a double-agent, and I look forward to seeing a final twist that isn't so predictable.
  • paula says
    this movie looks so good can't wait to see it!!!!!!!!!
  • Roly says
    We don't get out much as a couple anymore - the kids see to that. But we've been saying lately we should go to the movies... But what to see? I've had SALT earmarked (over Step Up 3D) and after reading your review I'm sold. Just have to convince the wife!
  • Kiwi Gas says
    Not sure about this film. Looks like it could be another in the mould of 'Killers'- a film that one critic said couldn't have got more annoying had someone stepped in front of the cinema screen and blown continuously on a vuvuzela!
  • vidura says
    best film to show off angelina's new thin figure. but ya looks like a great spy action film. hopefully there are a lot of twists similar to inception :)
  • Aaron says
    Looks like its gonna be good

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