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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review: Salt (2010)

* * *

Director: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Angelina Jolie

Salt is an absolutely preposterous movie but damn if I didn't have a good time watching it. If given a choice between dramatic, serious Angelina Jolie and ass-kicking, defying all logic Angelina Jolie, I'll take the latter every time. If you haven't seen the movie yet and plan to, it's probably best to read no further because this is going to be a bit spoilery.

Jolie stars as Evelyn Salt (or does she?), a CIA agent whom we first encounter as she's being tortured in North Korea. Following this brief prologue, the film flashes forward a couple of years to its story proper, which finds Salt encountering a defecting Russian spy who reveals a plot to assassinate the Russian President when he comes to the U.S. for the Vice-President's funeral. He goes on to reveal that the alias of the secret Russian agent who will pull this off is "Evelyn Salt."

What follows is a series of captures and impossible escapes and a shifting perception of Salt as a character. Have you ever seen that episode of The Simpsons where Moe is on a soap opera and every scene in the script ends with the words "...with sexy results"? I imagine the overview for Salt went something like this:
* Salt is accused of being a double agent and has to escape from CIA headquarters during lock down... with explosive results.
* Salt rushes home to make sure that her husband is safe and then has to escape from there because the CIA is fast on her heels... with explosive results.
* Salt, who really is a double agent, goes through with the plot to assassinates the Russian President... with explosive results.
* Salt allows herself to be captured and then escapes (again) while en route to be questioned... with explosive results.
* Salt reunites with her Russian cronies who murder her husband to test her loyalty. After getting information about the next step in the conspiracy, she takes her revenge... with explosive results.
* Salt gets into the bunker under the White House - don't ask how; it doesn't matter, though it does involve some explosive results - and then, in a twist on the film's own conventions, she prevents some explosive results by stopping the launch of nuclear warheads.
And you know what? I haven't even catalogued all of her daring escapes. It's to director Phillip Noyce's credit that the plot moves forward with such speed and intensity that you never get bored watching this single character play out an endless cycle of one basic premise. Credit is also due to Jolie, who invests a lot more in the character than the plot really requires. Nothing about the plot is really believable (and it becomes increasingly less believable as it goes on) but I completely believed Jolie as Salt in all of Salt's incarnations.

I realize that it probably seems like I'm being very critical of Salt but I actually enjoyed it a lot. The more ridiculous it got, the more endearing I found it. It's not great art by any means, but it is a great entertainment.


The Film Connoisseur said...

You actually made me want to watch this one, thanks! I will be checking it out soon. Sounds like it would make a great double bill with WANTED, which I've yet to see as well. Did you like Wanted, or have you seen it?

Norma Desmond said...

I have not seen Wanted, but seeing Salt certainly made me interested in seeking it out.

Candice Frederick said...

Lol. you know i love angelina in her dramatic films, but cannot stand her action films. but i am curious to see this one.

Tom said...

I want to see this one again; the car chase sequence is worth the price of admission.