Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: Salt (2010) TH

Who needs pepper when you've got Salt?

Usher in another super-trained movie like "The Bourne Identity," where the action is constant, over the top and swiftly moves from one kinetic reflex to the other with only a fraction of a second to think in between.

Agent Salt (Jolie) works for the C.I.A. On her way out of a day's work with home life on her mind, a Russian defector walks in. Salt approaches with arms crossed while he's tested with high tech lie detectors and sophisticated fact checks. Without sending off any red flags, he tells a story about an elaborate training program designed to infiltrate the U.S. with Russian spies. It started with the assassination Kennedy, though this time the goal is to take out the Russian president. Is this guy loopy or just stuck in the Cold War days, or what? At the close, he names Evelyn Salt, his interrogator, as the spy. Her boss Ted (Liev Schreiber) vouches for her innocence, while the other head-honcho Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) plays it by the book and wants her in custody till things are cleared up. She can't get ahold of her loving husband Mike--a German national who got her out of a rut in North Korea two years earlier--and makes a break for it and goes on the run like "The Fugitive" meets a female version of "XXX."

The action happens like a linear videogame as it feels rehearsed and formulaic, than being unpredictable and truly challenging. Salt has an uncannily high level of intuition to the point of being God-like instead of some hundred-something-pound person made out of flesh and blood. She'll easily jump on and off high speeding trucks on the highway like she's Spider-Woman or her bones are grafted from steel. Taking an early leave off a moving subway train isn't a stretch, neither is getting into multiple car accidents without being the least bit phased. You're supposed to suspend your disbelief because they flash some credentials on a computer screen and talk about past training. It does have a constant traction forward with a thriller-like pacing as something is always at her disposal to use or manipulate.

Salt's time on the run gets deeper and deeper and more and more conspiratorial. Tables get turned, traitors become uncovered and human lives are mowed through like freshly cut grass. Where audiences thought "The Hunt for Red October" was the last of its kind, we get pretty a spy popping up in real-life news stories after getting caught in the millennium. Though unintentional to capitalizing on the newly found panic, this picture never lets up from being a movie, one that's all about cinematic entertainment at its most primal element, enough to add twists and turns without confusion as the script could probably be read in a single visit to the loo. Getting the viewer to think is only incidental and not necessarily a direct result as everything is already laid out with suspenseful music, fast paced setups and quick edits; half the time Jolie puts on a stone-faced expression and the other is more exciting when she lets loose with a grimace. A large portion of the action in "Salt" is like a piece of toast that's smoothed over with butter but missing the crunch. As exaggerated as it is, the showdown it built up to was definitely a clencher and kept the thrills consistent to the very end instead of coping out with a typical wrapped-up Hollywood finish.

Director: Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, The Bone Collector, Catch a Fire)
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Website: IMDB