Sony // 2010 // 104 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // January 3rd, 2011
Who is Salt?
Angelina Jolie needs new representation. Following on from 2008's lukewarm Wanted, the actress has found herself in another unremarkable actioner, espionage tale Salt. Granted Jolie may very well be the best thing in this otherwise irksome picture, a dismally plotted vehicle from start to finish. The action is credible and the performances ample, but ultimately the tired screenplay halts Salt from overcoming blockbusting mediocrity.
A quiet CIA operative with a loving husband, Evelyn Salt's (Angelina Jolie, The Tourist) existence is thrown into chaos after a Russian defector accuses her of being a spy, planted to help carry out a devious plan against the American government. Salt is forced to go on the run, as her ex-colleagues (including Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor) relentlessly give chase in a bid to prevent her from doing any serious damage. Desperate to keep her naive husband from harm, Salt transforms herself into a living weapon, capable of tackling groups of gun toting goons and infiltrating any structure. It quickly transpires that an assassination attempt on the Russian president is in place, a plan Salt is linked with, and which could spell disaster for the world if successful.
Salt is a massive disappointment, but it's not without a few charms. The leading performance courtesy of Jolie is superb, the actress finding a tangible emotional core to her action heroine persona. The wearisome screenplay makes it tough for the characterization to strike a memorable note, but Jolie does her best with the soggy material, formulating a screen entity laced with believable angst and a hard edged touch. Another action feature isn't exactly the most original choice for the actress to make, but at least the general laziness emitting from the project allows Jolie to shine. The rest of the cast are also decent enough, although the usually dependable Liev Schreiber (The Omen) is undone by some of the most obvious and telegraphed character development I've sighted in a major motion picture this year.
Director Phillip Noyce handles the fast paced action well, but unfortunately opts to take Salt very seriously. For a film so underwritten, predictable, and outright silly, it's irritating to watch Salt uptake such a humorless tone, the film becoming bogged down in romantic tragedy and stodgy global politics. Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer clearly thinks his script has something important to say about international relations, but alas if it did, I missed it. The actual storytelling is pretty subpar, and the twist at the film's climax is foreseeable from about the 15 minute mark. Salt attempts to challenge the audience's perception of the main character, is she a bad guy, or could it all be a mix up? Given the way Noyce treats the central figure and the fashion in which supporting players act, only a thriller virgin would be unable to work it all out.
The film's kinetic style and energetic set-pieces are passable, but unfortunately they can't buoy this otherwise lackluster effort up. The cinematography is rather generic, the filmmakers using a dour and frosty aesthetic to match the blockbuster's joyless personality. Salt didn't do gangbusters at the box-office during summer 2010, although it cleared the $100 million mark domestically by a few bucks. Granted it's a relief the movie was unable to match the dizzying highs of Toy Story 3 or Inception in the money stakes, but it probably performed solidly enough so a hinted-at sequel could potentially be developed. I hope that isn't the case.
The Blu-ray looks marvelous and has a bevy of extra content. The video presentation of Salt is crystal clear and packed with detail, even during the frantic action beats. Similarly the sound mix is exceedingly sharp, capturing a nice balance between the speaker-destroying explosions and quieter moments of self-reflection. If you're looking to test out your newly acquired home entertainment set-up, this is a solid disc with which to do so. Three cuts of the film are included on the Blu-ray; the theatrical, an extended, and Noyce's own director's cut. I watched the latter, which runs a few minutes longer than the version released in theatres last July. The disc has been pegged as a "deluxe edition" and in fairness this release earns such a moniker, packed as it is to the brim with featurettes and interviews. Noyce's commentary is very interesting; particularly as it best addresses the changes Salt went through on its way to the screen in 2010. Originally the project was conceived for Tom Cruise, but was eventually rewritten for the enigmatic Jolie. The filmmaker also covers an array of other topics, including how his own personal history has sculpted his take on the spy genre. Jolie is covered again in depth with a featurette entitled The Ultimate Female Action Hero, which like the other offerings on this disc runs for about 9 minutes. There's plenty of other stuff to enjoy as well, including BD-Live capability and a picture in picture track. Basically this is a Blu-ray that's better than the movie it represents.
I'll concede that it isn't amongst the year's worst, but Salt still
remains a potent let down. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080;)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Theatrical Version
* Extended Version
* Cinema Verdict Review