Film Review: SALT (2010)
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By Todd Murphy. ALL ABOUT MOVIES.NET.
Directed by Phillip Noyce
Starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber
Salt gets marks for being something unexpected and engaging for a Hollywood blockbuster, but it loses them on its over-the-top and preposterous handling of its premise, and a lack of any characters to sympathise with.
Salt is an unusual film in that the previews gave a misguided impression as to what it was about. Going in, the film appeared to be about an innocent secret agent who was set up, but what made the film more interesting is that it turned out that secret agent was actually guilty of what they said she was. Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is a covert Russian spy, trained her entire life to be a sleeper agent in the CIA, waiting for her instructions to strike, which in this case is to assassinate the Russian president who is visiting America for a state funeral. The film is a riff on the “Bourne” movies, and like those movies, it delivers a number of sensational action set pieces, while simultaneously showing a seemingly unstoppable secret agent who knows every trick in the book to stay one step ahead of her pursuers. From this perspective, the film is quite different, and offers a unique perspective as opposed to the “Bourne” movies. You are lead to believe Salt will be the traditional hero, but this changes quickly in the second act when Salt is revealed to be the notorious sleeper agent she is suspected to be, which leads to a number of unusual and unexpected sequences. “Salt” is interesting to check out as it does deliver something different for a Hollywood action film.
Angelina Jolie is the go-to actress for a Hollywood action film, but she seems strangely subdued here, at least in terms of character if not action. She does the requisite amount of kicking butt, but somehow the motivations for her character are never satisfactorily delivered. It turns out that she is one of the bad guys, just not as bad as the other bad guys. This would be okay if the execution was spot on, but for the most part it is muddled and unclear, and only really comes together in the last five minutes of the film where it shamelessly turns in to a pitch for the sequel. As a result, it is very hard to follow Salt’s journey in this film because the story does not cover enough ground on the issue of why her story as a sleeper agent does not add up; there just isn’t enough mystery to make you cheer for her. Another factor working against the film is the preposterous handling of Salt’s backstory. The heavy-handed execution of it seems to highlight how silly the whole thing is, and given how crucial her training and her role as a sleeper agent in the CIA is to the story, the whole thing unravels in to an unbelievable mess. You would think that the CIA are run by a bunch of hopeless idiots if they allowed people like Salt to join their ranks. This silliness continues when more Russian sleeper agents are revealed, and that they are using each other against themselves, an element which was totally unnecessary given how complex all their interactions were to begin with. The film was a surprise in that it delivered a film of anti-heros, but it is a disappointment for not taking advantage of that premise, and instead delivered a hollow, and preposterous flunk of an action film.
Click here for the full review at All About Movies.net.
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Todd Murphy is a film analyst and staff writer/reviewer for the film and DVD review web site, ALL ABOUT MOVIES.NET.