Salt – Angelina Jolie – Movie Review
SALT TASTES BLAND
published July 23, 2010
A week after a
unique, stake-raising popcorn affair like Inception, it’s always good to have a recalcitrant
reminder of pained mediocrity for comparison.
In fact, if you see a critical naysayer of Inception who
hands Salt a pass, you should take down the name and plate number and report it to the
authorities. It’s not only that this Angelina Jolie espionage number is a lame beating. It’s the fact that it seems fine with it.
Do me a favor.
Choose your favorite pun for the title of the review (Not worth its Salt? A Salt on the senses?) while I go through the plot. In a world where
Russian sleeper agents don’t use cell phones and the Central Intelligence Agency never seals the perimeter, a Russian defector accuses CIA
superspy Evelyn Salt of playing for the other team. This turns out to be an opening gambit in a
plot to assassinate the Russian president, and it sends Salt on the run and into exile. Liev
Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor take time away from explaining how to spell their names and try to hunt her down.
Now I can’t say this
happened for sure, but Salt feels like a story that might have started as more of a thriller, like
No Way Out, before a producer or studio bigwig thought, “Hey, this could be like a female Bourne film.” So we see the insertion of bloody noses and long action set pieces. However, the foot chases
in the Bourne franchise can be dazzlingly creative and intricate; Salt’s are plodding and witless.
One lesson from the
Bourne series is to slant the playing field to make Bourne the good guy. It doesn’t matter if he
actually is a good guy or a sanctimonious narcissist – the crowd cheers for him. Salt never learns
this lesson. It offers the audience anti-heroics without the heroics. Who is Salt? The final answer is, who cares?
Earlier this decade,
director Phillip Noyce shifted from an action career to visually catchy, socially conscious middlebrow fare (Catch a Fire, and such). Having done his penitence, his conscience is clear to fill up the screen with
renewed soullessness. At least do it with some panache and drive: Salt is devastatingly sedate;
yelling “More helicopters! More body armor!” is no way to ramp up tension. The Australian helmer also can’t make heads or tails of
screenwriter Kurt Wimmer’s illogical work. No one could.
My pet Jolie
observation is that she would have been a great silent film actress. She has animated eyes, and
she’s powerful with big emotions. With viper eyes and dominating physicality, Jolie maximizes strengths here while cutting down on
weaknesses. Yet her biggest weakness remains picking worthwhile projects. This is only more salt
in that wound.