26 July 2010

Review: "Salt"

Angelina Jolie has built a career balancing character-driven films and action films. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for 1999's Girl, Interrupted and has since been nominated for Best Actress for Changeling (Clint Eastwood's overrated 2008 film) and a Golden Globe nomination for A Mighty Heart (2007). Angelina's profile skyrocketed after appearing in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and further cemented her status as a bankable action star in Mr & Mrs Smith (2005) and Wanted (2008). It has been two years since she appeared on screen and it is unfortunate that she chose Salt. Salt is a decent spy film but it plays like a cheap Bourne film with obvious plot twists and a rushed pace. The film's marketing campaign struggled when most avid film fans were busy awaiting Inception. Salt reunites Angelina Jolie with Phillip Noyce, who directed her in The Bone Collector (1999), but the film is a series of action sequences and fails to even begin to develop the character of Evelyn Salt. I really enjoyed the entire Jason Bourne trilogy (minus the shaky-cam) because they are intelligent films that focus on character first and then action. Salt features too many similarities to Jason Bourne, right down to the German love interest, and while the film ends with the possibility of a sequel I feel that Salt divulged too many secrets too quickly which would turn the next film into a revenge film rather than keeping with the spy genre. Salt starts off an exciting film but peaks too quickly and turns into predictable cat-and-mouse game that focuses more on Angelina Jolie's appearance than on the development of her character.

Evelyn Salt is a CIA agent. When interrogating a Russian defector named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) and he informs her about Day X, an operation that has been in place since the Cold War. He claims that Russian children were strategically placed with American families and these agents will join together on a specific date. He goes on to say that one agent in particular will kill the Russian President at the funeral of the Vice President of the United States. That agent is Evelyn Salt. The only person who believes this to be untrue is her partner Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber). The agents attempt to restrain Salt but she is very skilled and is able to escape. She is worried about her husband Mike (August Diehl) and returns home with the government on her tail. Salt changes her appearance and travels to New York City for the funeral. There is extra security but Salt is able to infiltrate and assassinates the Russian President. She is apprehended by the government but escapes and finds her way to Orlov. It is revealed that Evelyn Salt is really a Russian agent and that Day X includes killing the American President and causing an attack on two major cites.

I was very unimpressed with the very beginning of Salt, set in North Korea, and I feel that it did little to set the tone of the film because the characters were so underdeveloped. I am unsure if the action sequences were under-choreographed or over-choreographed and simply poorly filmed. There is a chase scene along a major highway that should have been more exciting but it lacked a lot of adrenaline that is necessary for a film in this genre. I feel like I have spent too much time negatively critiquing the film when I did enjoy the film. On the surface. Salt seems content to be a decent spy film that works on the surface but when you think back on the characters and the plot there are far too many holes and problems. It would be easy to blame Angelina Jolie for the film's shortcomings but the screenplay and the direction are Salt's primary weaknesses. While Inception is a film that requires your full attention and an open and intelligent mind, Salt certainly demands the opposite. If you can shut your mind right off you will enjoy Salt on the surface (even if the film is often darkly lit) but any analysis of the film will result in disappointment.

My rating: 2 stars out of 4.

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