Salt: Spicing Up The Summer Movie Season

23 07 2010

Edwin Salt was the original title for this film, with Tom Cruise attached to star. But after Cruise reviewed the script, he felt the character was too much like his role in 2002’s Minority Report and too close in tone to his Mission Impossible movies. So, he decided Knight and Day would be his next project instead. Oops. But, lucky for Angelina Jolie (and audiences), the sultry half of Brangelina rose to the occasion. And a satisfying summer blockbuster was born. Here’s the breakdown:

Two years after being rescued from a North Korean prison, CIA operative, Evelyn Salt meets with a Russian defector in Washington, D.C. When the defector claims Salt is a Russian spy, she must go on the run, searching for the missing clues to her past, all in an effort to clear her name…or so it seems…

The Monkey: Russian bad guys. Check. Nuclear threat. Check. Double, triple, even quadruple agents. Check. Kick ass action scenes. Check. Sounds like a classic 90’s action movie, a la James Bond or Tom Clancy, right? But throw in arguably one of the best action stars of today (male or female), a bit of updated tech and some expert action directing and you’ve got Salt. It’s this return to form that makes Salt so enjoyable. It’s a straightforward spy movie, the likes of which have all but disappeared. And the Clancy comparison will likely be made ad nauseam, I’m sure, and understandably so; after all, director Phillip Noyce helmed the Clancy-based Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994).

Jolie plays Salt with the perfect amount of emotion (or lack thereof, when appropriate) and delivers her unrelenting bad assery full force. Tom Cruise who? Exactly.

Liev Schreiber plays the trusty friend, Ted Winter, with a surprising amount of subtly, knowing just how to complement Jolie’s powerhouse performance without trying to compete or overshadow.

And of course, the action. While some may groan at the sheer audacity of the action sequences, you can’t argue that they aren’t spectacular. From freeway hopping across truck-tops to driving off an overpass while steering a car with a Taser (yes, a Taser), Salt stretches the realm of believability – but the beauty of it is, you won’t care. Just as when Bond stops a bomb countdown with :01 seconds to go or when the action star walks through flaming debris with perfectly coiffed hair, Salt‘s action scenes are so well shot and edited, the audience isn’t given any time to question the logic or realism of it all. You only have time to smile and get excited for what’s coming next.

Not only was the action fun, it was delightfully brutal. Diverging from its 90’s brethren, Salt kicks the violence up a notch, giving Jolie, in particular, a chance to flex her cold-hard-bitch muscles, laying waste to enemies with merciless precision. Noyce deserves a nod for this as well, filming unforgivingly without being graphic.

The most wonderful part of Salt was it’s ability to actually keep me guessing. I’m hard pressed to remember any recent movies that managed to keep secrets or surprise me (without being cheap about it, *cough* Book of Eli *cough*). Noyce’s deft camera angles linger on facial expressions just long enough to make you second guess your assumptions. The actors quirk an eyebrow or throw a glance that disrupts your theories. These small nuances kept Salt from being completely predictable and made for a truly enjoyable movie-going experience.

The Weasel: While the cast works wonderfully, Chiwetel Ejiofor (who plays FBI agent Peabody) was woefully underutilized. I thoroughly enjoyed his steely performance in 2005’s Serenity and loved seeing his versatility in the indie hit, Kinky Boots. Unfortunately, Salt leaves him little to do, other than scowl and remain confused the entire film. A waste.

Salt delivers on its tagline – “Who is Salt?” The movie manages to keep you guessing, and makes sure you enjoy the ride from beginning to end. With clear room for future installments, I pray there will be – classic spy movies deserve a comeback. Move over Jason Bourne – Evelyn Salt has arrived.

4 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Did Salt manage to keep you guessing? Were you able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the action? Would you like to see a sequel? Share your thoughts in the comments, but remember – avoid revealing spoilers!

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2 responses

26 07 2010

I did enjoy Salt for the most part. I agree with you on the action. Amazing. but I have to say that the plot did seem pretty predictable to me at least. In this I disagree with you. There were too many little things in the film that lead to certain conclusions. I love that fact that everyone sees and enjoys different things about movies! Nice review!

26 07 2010

Thanks! It’s interesting you mention predictability – the more I think about it, the more I seem to remember one of the first trailers for this movie giving a lot more of the plot away – even hinting at the ending – hmmm…and while I was pleasantly befuddled by the plot the first time around, unfortunately, repeat viewings won’t be as entertaining – but then, I have Angie to entertain me will all of her ass-kicking and smoky eye looking! 🙂 Thanks for the comments! 🙂

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