Sunday, May 12, 2013

Salt (2010)

Director: Phillip Noyce                                Writer: Kurt Wimmer
Film Score: James Newton Howard             Cinematography: Robert Elswit
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor and August Diehl

I had a very curious reaction to the film Salt. While I certainly enjoyed it, when it was all over I couldn’t help feeling, “Is that all there is?” There were two reasons for this, I figured out. The first is that, from the beginning, this film was setting itself up for a sequel. I had the same feeling when I reached the end of The Bourne Legacy, but then that was the fourth film in the series and I could forgive it for that. Here it smacks of a pretty huge assumption that, as yet, hasn’t been fulfilled. The other is the script itself. There’s simply no down time in the film, no chance for the characters to catch their breath like there is in say . . . The Bourne Identity, with the long drive in the car or the time in the apartment. Other than that, I really had a good time.

Sort of a combination of No Way Out--itself a remake of The Big Clock--and The Manchurian Candidate, it tells an episode in the life of CIA agent Evelyn Salt that begins with her imprisonment in a North Korean prison for suspicions of being a spy. When her release is finally negotiated by her German husband, who has been able to work all kinds of public channels, she realizes that he is now exposed because, of course, she is a spy. Back at work, a Russian defector tells the agency that she is actually a Russian mole and launches her into the first of her harrowing escapes in order to save her husband from the Russians who would kill him. Why? Because she is, in fact, Russian, raised in complete American immersion in order to be planted in the United States in deep cover since childhood. It’s a convoluted plot, but one that relatively easy to understand as it unfolds in the film.

Angelina Jolie is very good as Salt. She does a nice job with the disguises she wears, something that’s a little different from the Bourne franchise. Throughout the film she is trying to be reeled back in by Liev Schreiber, who is her good friend at the agency and has a difficult time believing she could be a mole, and Chiwetel Ejiofor who doesn’t have any such qualms, knowing only that she’s a rogue agent and they can sort out the details once she’s captured. As I stated up front, there’s a relentless quality to the film that is not in its favor. With absolutely no time to reflect, the audience doesn’t get the opportunity to empathize with Jolie, which is a shame. She has a very engaging presence onscreen and as an audience member I wanted to connect with her even more. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t allow for that. Salt is clearly a film made for action/adventure/spy fans and it definitely delivers on that score. I only hope that if the franchise continues we can spend more time with the character so that she doesn’t become simply another cartoon hero.

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