**** (out of 5)
July 23, 2010
Angelina Jolie as EVELYN SALT
Liev Schreiber as TED WINTER
Chiwetel Ejiofor as PEABODY
Daniel Olbrychski as ORLOV
August Diehl as MIKE KRAUSE
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I’m not a huge fan of Angelina Jolie, but I do enjoy seeing her in the right role. She’s actually quite a fine actor, and she has the physicality to be an action hero as well. It is this set of traits that make her perfect for her role in “Salt.”
The film tells the story of a woman named Evelyn Salt (Jolie) who works at the CIA. One day, a man walks in, accusing her of being a Russian spy. To avoid being detained and interrogated by her own countrymen, Salt flees, hoping to find her husband whom she knows will be a target. But things aren’t always what they seem, and Salt becomes embroiled in assassination attempts and international espionage.
The script for this film was written by Kurt Wimmer, who blows hot and cold in my book. His script for “Law Abiding Citizen” was a guilty pleasure of mine last year, and the similarly themed “The Recruit” was a fun action flick. Still, Wimmer is guilty of giving us the god-awful “Ultraviolet,” so he’s not infallible. I consider him a modern day Shane Black, who has given us both gems and crap in the same career.
Fortunately, “Salt” turns out to be one of the gems. Directed by Phillip Noyce, who has done political action with “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger” while also delivering more dramatic pieces like “The Quiet American” and “Rabbit Proof Fence.” Noyce loads the film with action, and the excitement moves almost non-stop through the entire second act.
This aggressive pacing serves the film well because it really doesn’t give you much time to think. That’s a good thing because “Salt” isn’t terribly original or smart. It goes through a lot of motions we’ve seen before, and while it has a couple nice twists in it, most people should see these coming a mile away.
Noyce and Wimmer were in synch with this film. They didn’t take it too seriously, and they didn’t delude themselves into thinking they’re making fine art or brilliant cinema. Instead, they made a fun action ride. And placing Angelina Jolie at ground zero in the film gave them a real focal point to wrap the film around.
“Salt” is a great name for this film because it symbolizes its inherent entertainment value. The powerful action and clean international look to the movie adds some flavor to this somewhat bland summer. But I wouldn’t want every movie to be like this or it just wouldn’t taste good.
The movie fits squarely in a genre we’ve seen a lot from in recent years, but it’s one of the more effectively constructed film of the bunch. Where “The International” and even this year’s “Knight and Day” tried too hard and didn’t pack the right punch, “Salt” works.
Sure, it’s loaded with clichés, the story doesn’t quite work and only an ignoramus would think this would be remotely possible in the real world. But like a good run of FOX’s “24,” it’s fiercely entertaining to watch. If only they had found a way to get Jolie in a bikini or two, and we’d have the perfect summer popcorn movie.