Unreal Movie Review: Salt


It’s not very often you see a movie undergo a sex change, which is why I was curious to see how Angelina Jolie would step into the (similarly sized) shoes of Tom Cruise when she replaced him in the titular role of Salt.

The result is an initially mundane, but eventually interesting action thriller that has deep echoes of Bourne with a bit of The Manchurian Candidate thrown in for good measure. This film isn’t nearly as good as either of those, but it does put forth quite an effort, and is actually pretty memorable in its own way.

The first half of Salt is completely unspectacular. A random man wanders in off the street and points out Angelina’s Evelyn Salt as a Russian spy, sent to kill the Russian president visiting in America, sparking a war between the two nations. I guess Russian spies are cooler than middle-eastern ones, as very few international espionage movies seem keen on keeping up with the last thirty years of history or so.

This is explained away by the implication that there was a secret KGB training camp set up in the seventies that molded orphans into perfect American-ized plants to be activated at a later date. A date which is now. CIA agent Salt is accused of being such a plant, and her first instinct is to jump out the nearest window, painting her as a model of innocence. “Maybe she’s telling the truth! Did you ever think of that?” her boss Liev Schreiber says as she knocks out cameras, beats up security cards and makes improvised explosive devices inside Langley. Yeah, OK.


“Say I’m innocent or I’ll blow your face off!”

The initial hunt for Salt is your typical “I’m being set up!” mumbo jumbo where a lot of people jostle each other through city streets and Salt jumps on top of semi trucks like she’s escaping Agents in The Matrix: Reloaded. The film constantly swings back and forth between ridiculous stunts (at one point, Salt drive a police cruiser remotely by tasering the driver so his foot accelerates on command) and typical Bourne disarm-beat-em-up action, that Salt executes reasonably well, but she’d be no match for Jason in a showdown.

The film gets interesting when your initial view of Salt is thrown out the window, and the film takes a turn down a path you weren’t expecting. Then it takes another one. And another. And by the end you feel like you might have been twisted around one too many times.

During the film you’re meant to be questioning where Salt’s allegiances actually lie, as her mayhem would indicate a guilty conscience, but her careful placement of shots in guard’s legs would indicate a bit more care than your typical Russian spy might dole out. I won’t say how things shake down, and actually, it’s not quite that clear cut one way or the other, which I think actually serves the ending of the film well. The movie is left open for sequels, but unless this starts kicking some serious ass at the box office, I doubt we’ll be seeing much of Ms. Salt after this.


Tom Cruise would have looked terrible in that hat.

And that is kind of a shame, because Jolie’s Evelyn Salt is the kind of heroine we don’t see very often anymore. Ridley Scott said that he took Ripley’s part in Alien, wrote it like she was a man, and gave it to Sigourney Weaver, thus creating one of the most badass movie heroines of all time. Jolie’s Salt here obviously underwent the same kind of transition here once Cruise left, and there is very little feminine about her character at all, despite the fact the actor portraying her is one of the hottest women on the planet. Sex appeal plays absolutely no role in the film whatsoever, and I have to say, it’s cool to see a woman for once going around, outsmarting governments and kicking guy’s asses all over the place. And there aren’t even any vampires (Underworld) or zombies (Resident Evil) around!

I liked Salt. I think the first act needs a shot in the arm, and there are a few poorly structured flashback scenes that desperately needed reworking, but overall, the overarching plot is one that kept me interested despite my initial hate for the way the film starts. I’m not sure I’ve ever had my opinion of a film so drastically changed mid-movie before.

The script needs a bit of work, as in between the action there isn’t really a smart bit of conversation to be found, but the film tries to hurry itself along so you don’t notice. The action needs to stay more grounded in reality, and not lose itself in the deep end of crazy as it often does, and that way those Bourne comparisons might actually stick.

I kind of doubt that we’ll see Ms. Salt again, but it certainly was nice to meet her, and I hope to see women like her more often in the future.

3.5 out of 5 stars



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