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Monday, December 20, 2010

A Pinch of 'Salt' Goes a Long Way

Salt = 3 out of 5
Orlov: The name of the agent is Evelyn Salt.
Evelyn Salt: My name is Evelyn Salt.
Orlov: Then you are a Russian spy.
After months of an ad campaign asking film-goers, "Who is Salt?" Only to be met mostly with a response sounding like, "who cares?" It's safe to say that the actual film does answer that question, and also manages to be a pretty effective action thriller. It very much goes into hardcore ridiculous territory, but I appreciated Jolie's work as a super spy, along with the very high stakes this movie this movie presents. The solid, over-the-top action matches the ridiculous story.


So Angelina Jolie does in fact star as Salt, an agent for the CIA. Her loyalties are soon called into question one day, as a supposed Russian defector comes into the office to give up information, which includes accusing Salt of being a Russian spy. Her superiors, quick to look past her years of loyalty, decide to attempt detaining her, but Salt manages to escape and go on the run, hoping to clear her name, keep her husband safe, and possibly stop the assassination of some important people. Due to her training, Salt has all the means to be effective in any situation, so hopefully she can manage to prove herself to be the patriot she is...or is she?

Much of the film's story works on twisting around our perception of what is true. While this may not lead to deep thoughts about character motivation or leave us with the feeling that this screenplay is very unique, but it relies on a premise that supplies enough mystery as far as ridiculous action movies go. Basing a movie tag line around the question of who a character is can certainly seem gimmicky, and this movie doesn't do itself favors by going so far over the top, but Jolie's performance is solid enough to have it work.

Director Philip Noyce, who has previously headed up a couple Tom Clancy movies as well as the awesome thriller 'Dead Calm', and writer Kurt Wimmer have put together a tightly constructed action film that takes the approach of being a movie that you can either ride all the way through and arrive at your destination satisfied or hit a bunch of pit stops on the way, noticing some big holes in its story. This film manages to keep you engaged, but its better if you don't think to hard about the world these characters exist in.

Jolie does well in her role as Salt. She maintains a sense of mystery to her, which I mentioned, but also continues to prove that she is quite the action heroine, when it is required of her. Involving herself in a good portion of the stunts (wire-work not withstanding), it's nice to see her not only look sexy, but also seeing her let herself get beat up quite a bit. This movie also apparently wanted to impress me by casting a number of people I like in supporting roles. Liev Schreiber co stars as Salt's superior, hoping that she is in fact innocent. Chiwetel Ejiofor is given a nothing role as the agent who must doubt everything. And for some reason Andre Braugher turns up, with one line of dialogue.


Of course, the action is a main concern for being able to enjoy this film, and it is certainly handled appropriately and aplenty. After starting off a bit slow by delivering as much exposition as possible, this film does ramp up and turn into a pretty consistent chase film. A number of well handled action set pieces, and solid pacing, accompanied by a noticeably good score by James Newton Howard all benefit the film. It's touch and go with what beliefs we are willing to suspend, but I found it to be good enough to a point.

Towards the end, as more and more reveals about the plot were made, I was certainly willing to appreciate the overall goals that the villains were trying to achieve from a James Bond sort of perspective. It's an element that I haven't seen in a while, which pleased me.

Overall, this film certainly doesn't help itself by being so serious about a plot so silly, but there is ample amounts of action and enough confidence in the Jolie performance that I was entertained enough by the film.
Evelyn Salt: I'm innocent. Someone is setting me up!

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