Sony // 2010 // 104 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // December 15th, 2010
Who is Salt?
The movie was originally intended as a project for Tom Cruise (Top Gun), but he read the script and thought it was too similar to what he had done with Mission: Impossible. He passed, the director changed, and Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger) decided he would shop Salt to Angelina Jolie (The Tourist). So what was to be a big loud action picture for a guy instead became a big loud action picture for a girl. Jolie had been looking for a spy franchise of her own, because she was tired of people asking her to play Bond girl roles and second fiddle to other guys. And so the gender flip was on, and Edwin Salt became Evelyn. But the question remained, who is this spy really? And will audiences care enough to kick off a new franchise?
Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is a CIA agent who is married to a German guy (August Diehl, Inglourious Basterds) who studies poisonous spiders. She's praised by her boss (Liev Schreiber, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as being extremely loyal and efficient. But then one day a Russian spy (Daniel Olbrychski, The Perfect Guy for My Girlfriend) who is being interrogated insinuates that Evelyn is actually a sleeper spy for the Soviet Union, and that all he has to do is say the right words to activate her. And with this Salt begins to run amuck, which makes everybody wonder. Is she a Russian spy after all, or simply a woman who cares too much about her husband and her country? To reveal more would ruin all the fun, because Salt has its own unique twists and turns along the way that questions the identity and allegiance of everyone including its main character.
Angelina Jolie is a great sport, and according to the filmmakers she did most of her own stunts. What makes this even more admirable is that most of them were practical, and there was little done with CGI or green screens. The action in Salt is pretty spectacular, on par with her male counterparts in the genre. Jason Bourne and James Bond should be shaking in their boots. Jolie is an absolute natural whether she's dangling from a building, surfing on top of a semi, or crashing through concrete with some well placed grenades. We believe that she is capable of taking out an entire bunker of agents, and that is what makes Salt work so well as an action flick. It is glorious fun when you look at it purely on a blowing things up perspective.
Salt is available on DVD in two versions including one bare bones edition, which is simply the theatrical version and nothing else. Here we have the Deluxe Unrated Edition which includes three cuts of the film and a ton of extras. You can choose the theatrical version, an unrated cut which only runs one minute longer, or the unrated director's cut which has all the violence and an extra three minutes of deleted footage. The additions only add a little more intensity to the violence and not much to the plot until the final reels. There is an alternate ending that is a coda to establish a possible sequel and there are a couple of deaths that were not seen in the theatrical cut. There are two featurettes (fewer than the Blu-ray edition) which look at Angelina's status as an action hero as well as how they did her disguises. Also featured are an audio-only radio interview with director Phillip Noyce and his commentary over the film (Blu-ray again offers a couple more commentaries).
The transfer is extremely well executed. Colors pop, black levels look nice, and overall for DVD the whole package works for Salt. I did not notice any aliasing or digital noise reduction issues. Only a plaid here and there caused any hint of pixilation. The audio portion of the program aggressively adds to the action. There is enough oomph to the sound to make your speakers shake a bit. The DVD is pretty impressive technically, and certainly nobody will complain about how it looks or sounds.
My only real beef with Salt is that it is a big loud action movie that is on par with the rest of the genre. The trouble is that Tom Cruise's instincts were dead on when he figured the script had a "been there, done that" quality about it. Making the character a woman is a novelty, but I wish they had also made the film smarter to avoid some of the action movie clichés. Let's face it: Angelina has done some innovative stuff, such as her turn in Wanted, which makes this one seem less impressive in terms of originality.
Don't women deserve better if they are going to hit the action genre? It reminded me of Bridget Fonda in Point of No Return which was merely a pale imitation of the far superior La Femme Nikita which remains the gold standard of "women with guns" movies. Why can't someone of Angelina Jolie's talent find a project that can marry her action abilities with her Oscar contender performances? Isn't she a great hope that we can rise above the Arnold and Sylvester level of gratuitous loud violence for the sake of just watching things go boom? I'm afraid if she keeps going down the path created by Salt then she may just end up in a sequel to The Expendables.
This Deluxe Unrated Edition of the DVD is the way to go if you want the most bang for your buck in regards to extras on the format. The Blu-ray has a handful more of the featurettes, a couple more commentaries, but looks to be just more tricked out for the sake of it. You get plenty to enjoy the film here, and this should satisfy fans.
Salt is a ton of fun as an action movie, although it is definitely standard procedure to check your brain at the door with these types of things. It is on par with all the rest of the "shoot 'em ups" out there, and it's nice to see a leading lady that can outperform most of the male stars working in the genre. Jolie is a rare breed and Salt is a perfect project for her talents. The only way it falls short is that she is capable of doing a bit more emotionally and when you look at the complexity and richness of the film it fails to deliver. It's good at exploding everything except the interior landscape of a woman who just might be a Soviet spy. The film acts as if the Cold War never ended, and it feels a bit like a dinosaur in that regard. But dinosaurs are fun, and where Salt excels is in being bombastic and impressively over-the-top violent.
Guilty of being tough as a man, but rather stupid like one, too.
Review content copyright © 2010 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Theatrical Version
* Unrated Version