Theatrical Review: Salt

A woman named Evelyn Salt is held captive in North Korea. The North Koreans believe her to be a spy and even under extreme torture, Salt denies it (though it is true), maintaining that she’s an executive with a petroleum company. Eventually though she’s released in a spy exchange. It was something that she hadn’t expected, but it was done thanks to efforts of her boyfriend, Mike Krause, a German arachnologist who is something of a big deal. His looking into this threatened to make a huge international stink, and so Salt’s CIA superiors decide to arrange for being freed.

Two years later, Salt’s cover is still good and things are going well for her. One day though, a defector comes in from the cold. A master Russian spy named Orlov who reveals a plot to kill the Russian president scheduled to happen in the United States. Orlov tells that this will happen due to a deep cover operative placed within the CIA- an agent named Evelyn Salt. Now Salt is on the run in order to supposedly clear her name.

Salt is the latest movie from director Philip Noyce and screenwriter Kurt Wimmer. Noyce is best remembered for his work on two of the Jack Ryan movies, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Wimmer is certainly no stranger to the action genre, having written movies like Law Abiding Citizen, The Recruit and the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. Wimmer’s better known (at least to me) for the two movies that he wrote and directed, Equilibrium and Ultraviolet. I think they’ve delivered a pretty fun movie here, with just a few quibbles on my end.

It’s been awhile since seeing Philip Noyce do this kind of big action movie, and he hasn’t lost his touch. The action scenes here are genuinely thrilling with one of the big highlights being a chase scene near the start of the film. The pacing of this film is pretty balls to the wall all the way through, though you never get lost in it.

Salt’s story revisits the days of the Cold War in a big way, offering up it’s own comic book take on a huge Russian master plan. Now I’ve seen some complaints regarding it’s realism, or lack of, and I have to say, this didn’t bother me. It might’ve if this had some sort of mocking quality to it, but it doesn’t. It’s all handled very straight with some solid conviction all around.

Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt and I think she does one hell of a good job here. She looks terrific (as always) and she’s one of the few actresses around who I think can pull off this kind of action and make it convincing. She’s backed up with some fine support from Liev Schrieber and Chiwetol Ejifor. Daniel Olbrychski plays Orlov and does a nice job as this Russian master spy. He’s mainly there for story exposition, but certainly carries the authority to pull it off.

Some of my quibbles though are in the casting. I think this should’ve gone a little bigger with it’s casting of both Mike Krause and the President of the United States. I’m sure that both August Diehl (Krause) and Hunt Block (the president) are doing just what’s asked of them, but there’s not a whole lot more. And while their casting doesn’t really hurt the movie, having actors who could’ve brought a bit more to it could’ve added a lot more. Andre Braugher is cast as the Secretary of Defense and he’s only seen in a single scene near the end where he barely has anything to do- and so to me, an actor of his calibre is wasted. He could’ve served this movie better being cast as the President of the United States.

Now the next quibble goes into spoiler territory, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, then skip this paragraph. Almost from the moment he’s introduced, you sort’ve suspect that something is up with the character that Liev Schrieber plays. Indeed by the movie’s end, you find out that there is indeed something going on with him. Now I really like Schreiber and I think it would’ve actually been pretty cool had they defied convention with his use and maybe have had another CIA agent introduced at the start to take on what Schreiber ends up doing. It would’ve been nice to see him more in the good guy role here. Again, like with the casting of the president and Mike Krause, this doesn’t really hurt the movie, but it really could’ve improved if this had just defied convention a bit.

Still, even with my quibbles, Salt is a lot of fun and hopefully the start of a new franchise for both Jolie and Philip Noyce. I had a great time with this.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

25. July 2010 by Darren Goodhart
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