Summer is a time that is epitomized by mindless popcorn entertainment and Salt is the perfect example of this. Just like Wanted and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Angelina Jolie [Editor's note: check out our Q&A with Jolie here] is running, jumping, shooting and stabbing—all with a cool, calm and collected smile. Jolie can be captivating in multi-faceted roles, but seems most at home when jumping off buildings, wielding automatic weapons, pouting her lips and staring danger straight in the face with a sly smirk and a polished pair of shades.
The fact that Salt originally intended to have Tom Cruise in the lead—and was then re-shaped for Jolie when he dropped out—should tell you something about her. She holds the screen with as much authority as her male counterparts and resembles a female James Bond or Ethan Hunt of sorts. She becomes the identity of the films she stars in, and Salt is no different. Spiders, handcuffs, cleaning solution, cop cars—you name it, she turns it into a lethal weapon. Add some signature, slow-motion, walk-away-from-the-explosion moments and a few one-liners and we’ve got ourselves a formula for mindless fun!
You’re probably familiar with the trailer, in which Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is interrogating Russian defector Orlav (Daniel Olbrychski) for the United States CIA, where she is regarded as a super agent patriot. When he reveals there will be an attempt on the life of the president of Russia while he is in the United States, it’s initially dismissed. The rest of the conversation goes something like this:
“The name of the agent who will kill him is Evelyn Salt.”
“My name is Evelyn Salt.”
“Then you are a Russian spy.”
That concept seemed exciting enough to draw me in, initially. Who knows? With a film as clever as Inception being released a week earlier, it could be a summer of broken rules. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say it’s all downhill after the trailer, but the film certainly wasn’t as intelligible as that one isolated scene of witty dialogue portrayed it to be. After Orlav’s accusation is detected to be true by sophisticated CIA truth-detecting technology, Salt briskly scoots out the back door and is on the run, seemingly with the purpose of finding her husband, who has gone missing amidst the unfolding conspiracy. The rest is a matter of separating the good guys from the bad guys and answering the question: Who is Evelyn Salt—framed government agent or Russian spy?
It is a film that seems to take pride in its astounding ridiculousness. The double-crosses, triple-crosses and far-fetched twists are its personality and the source of entertainment for the audience, who excitedly gasped and clapped throughout the film. Director Phillip Noyce doesn’t waste much time with backstories, explanations or character development, and that would explain the stunted 90-minute running time. But really, in perspective, I’m not entirely sure about the who, what, where or when—I just know Angelina Jolie is running from the people who are chasing her, and in this case, it’s entirely sufficient.
Salt never tries to be something it’s not. It’s short, it’s ludicrous, and as long as you’re willing to throw physics out the window right off the bat, it’s entertaining. Now that you’ve been forewarned, if your resolve to see this film hasn’t diminished, you’ll be likely to enjoy it. I was squirming and scoffing in my seat until about halfway through when I finally gave up on logic and gave in to its guilty-pleasure aspect. Akin to a roller coaster ride in the dark, you never know what’s coming next, but that’s the thrill of it.
Review by Grant Hooper