Scotty C. gives us his take on This Week's new release, Salt, starring Angelina Jolie. Be warned there may be spoilers. (I admit I haven't read it because I'm hoping to see Salt tonight and don't want to know anything.) I may or may not have my own review up sometime this weekend/early next week.
“Salt” begins with Evelyn Salt (Jolie) in a North Korea detainment center pleading with them that she is not a spy as they aggressively interrogate her. Later she is released, in part by her husband willing to go to the media and anyone else to make a big mess out of her imprisonment. Flash forward two years and the building Salt works in is a CIA office. She is looking at an online video for how to fold napkins. She is celebrating her anniversary and wants everything to be just right. Just as Salt and her CIA friend, Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) are about to walk out of the office, an agent tells them a Russian defector walked in. Salt will talk to him but she has to leave in a half an hour. The defector tells Salt that a Russian spy will kill the Russian President and her name is Evelyn Salt. After hearing this, Winter and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) working with a different agency detain Salt for questioning only for her to escape.
Supposedly she ran because she is worried about her husband because once an agent’s cover is blown, their whole family is killed. I don’t know if it’s the writing (most likely culprit) or Jolie’s performance but this motive never seems genuine, and not genuine as a psych either. It may have been better if they cut this out of the film in general but maybe they felt that women would want Salt to have a family motive. Why not have an adorable daughter she has to get home to? The fact that she is a potential Russian spy is more interesting than any family issues they have set up.
So now we’re on the run. There is lots of running, climbing and fast cars. None of this equals suspense. What is difficult about the spy genre is if someone is a superspy, you rarely fear for their life. They are trained for every scenario set forth on screen. The plot gets more intricate and layered. You don’t know who is good or who is bad? I’m fine with that. I’m sure the audience is fine with that. I would like the filmmakers to know where we are going though.
Director Phillip Noyce has directed a ton of films in this genre: “The Bone Collector” (another Jolie film that resembles this), “Clear and Present Danger” (I think the worst of the Jack Ryan films) and “Patriot Games”, a good entry into the Jack Ryan franchise with Harrison Ford. Noyce doesn’t direct films with much suspense or uptempo styles. His films run at a slower pace. Now I know why I was thinking about Harrison Ford half the movie. Take a look at “The Fugitive”. It is a simple storyline. There are no double agents, no moles in the government. It’s Richard Kimble and Samuel Gerard. The tagline from IMDB reads: “A murdered wife. A one-armed man. An obsessed detective. The chase begins.” That’s all the movie has and it is a much better film. You are invested in Kimble. You are invested in Gerard. You care about those characters.
Did I ever care about Evelyn Salt? When her husband is missing? No. When you find out about her childhood? Not really. Did I care about her? I don’t know what her motive is so I cannot get attached to her at all. There was a scene where she took her dog before her apartment got gassed by agents and paid a girl to take care of him. That was heartwarming.
How Salt is able to get away from almost every situation is predictable but interesting. This film does get good in the last twenty minutes or so. It finishes rather well. Can a movie be limping along for an hour and a half and wow you in the end and leave you with a good taste in your mouth. Unfortunately, it kinda does.
A movie like this can’t be successful anymore. “24” has done every type of mole inside the government with Jack Bauer saving the day for too many years. This whole genre will have to be reinvented to remain relevant.
I read that before Jolie took this film it was a script for a man. Tom Cruise was going to be in it. So they spend a day changing all the pronouns and the script is for a woman. As I watched it, I wondered if Tom Cruise would’ve been better for this. It was a great decision for Cruise to leave this project. I hope he left it because he saw the director and writer had no idea what they were doing. Obviously Jolie had no problem with it because she was directed by Noyce in “The Bone Collector”. Guess what? That movie is horrible. Much like this movie, it has a twist ending but in “Salt” the ending saves the movie.
The studio will probably be happy. More people were at my noon showing than when I saw “Knight and Day” or “Inception.” Keep your chin up Tom Cruise, ditching this movie means you still have some good judgment.