Movie Review: Salt (2010)

Angelina Jolie in Salt
Photo: Columbia Pictures

The fact Salt is directed by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games) and stars Angelina Jolie meant my interest was locked in regardless. I prefer Jolie in action mode and I prefer Noyce directing faster paced features such as his two Jack Ryan outings. Unfortunately, I can’t offer anything more than faint praise for Salt as it fumbles all over itself throughout and sputters out completely in the end. There are some tremendous moments of action and Jolie is superb in the title role, but even though each scene seems to be well thought out individually, none of them tie together all that well. Worst of the lot is the finale, in which the actors’ performances seem as if they are channeling characters from a completely different movie.

Jolie as Evelyn Salt (a role originally intended for Tom Cruise before the lead character underwent a gender change), is at the center of the story. She’s a CIA agent accused of being a sleeper spy with an agenda to kill the Russian president. Before she can be questioned her guilt is immediately assumed as she goes on the run, begins jumping from semi trucks to delivery vans, playing with explosives and shooting anyone in her way. Salt is truly a kick ass character and, despite her frail frame and gaunt features, Jolie is one of only a few actors that can pull it off and at the same time bring an added level of weight to the performance.

Jolie’s co-stars include Liev Schreiber as her CIA superior and Chiwetel Ejiofor working in counter-intelligence. Both are well suited for the roles and only falter when the script fails them. This is the case for all the actors involved and the rest of the movie as well.

Scripted by Kurt Wimmer (Law Abiding Citizen), Salt digs plot holes Wimmer isn’t talented enough to climb out of. For those only out for a jolt of action and little fluidity from scene to scene will find this works, but if you’re looking for a little something more you will be left wanting. Transitioning from one “blam, boom, ‘splosion” scene to the next proves to be difficult for this script. Jolie and cast do well to hold things together much of the way, but the tank proves to be empty by the third act.

I will admit, at the outset there is a certain level of intrigue to the story. Early on you’re left to ask yourself, “Just who should I be cheering for?” Members of my audience were even clapping as Salt blasted her way out of a series of jams, but I was asking myself Is she the hero or the villain? I asked this even though I had a pretty good idea about the answer, but there is at least is a small level of complexity to the story you’ll be able to grasp onto even if it shoots itself in the foot by the time the film ends.

Overall, Salt is saved by Jolie’s dedication to her character and Noyce’s ability to frame some truly excellent action sequences. This film also has a tendency to get very dark, violent and emotionally charged, pushing the boundaries of its PG-13 rating. An early action scene involving a church and some explosives is particularly impressive and with talk of Jolie doing most of her own stunts it makes me wonder just who that was jumping from a bridge onto a moving semi, and just how much wire work was involved.

I don’t think people will come out of Salt unhappy. Short on satisfaction due to a terrible ending may be more like it. However, should this film become a success, the sequels could be amazing as I really like where they wanted to take the character. This is a film obviously interested in setting up a Jason Bourne-like franchise as the two stories are very easily comparable, but whether audiences will support this film for the long haul is the biggest roadblock to seeing more of what Salt has to offer.