Salt

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This is not about SALT - Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, but the movie, newly released and starring Angelina Jolie.  But SALT isn’t too far off.  Jolie plays a CIA agent, Evelyn Salt, caught up in a Russian mole – sleeper agent caper that certainly harkens back to the Cold War, and I doubt the character’s last name of Salt was chosen without intending a play on the reference.

This summer’s Jolie outing is yet another action movie for the actress, a genre that she continues to mine with commercial success (Lara Croft, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Wanted).  And this movie is likely to continue with her trend, as she remains, for a time, a very watchable action brand.  After all, action movies hardly require the tightest plots, and Jolie, aside from being easy on the eyes, certainly applies herself to the rather energetic requirements of a heroine in the genre.  The action scenes, overall, are good to very good, forgiving the suspension of disbelief which is by necessity included in the ticket price.

Not too much can be said about a simple plot without giving it away.  Salt does not have the literary depth that made the Jason Bourne movies excel, and what little we do know about her is a fairly simple back story that provides context but no clues on who Salt is.  Without continual development, that relegates Salt to solid Saturday escapism, an enjoyable movie that trusts its audience to forgive its over-the-top habits:  the somewhat incredulous leaps between vehicles, the horde of errant agents freshly graduated from Star Wars Storm Trooper Academy, the “attacking out of nowhere” camera angles on the unsuspecting (how to attack a guard in a hallway? Let’s just let her descend into the frame without explanation because it’s efficient and looks cool), and… you get the picture.  

My movie companions afterwards talked about Raiders of the Lost Ark and compared Salt in regards to their non-stop action pacing. angelina jolie salt That’s definitely a true description after the plot is triggered, but it’s not necessarily a good thing.  With Raiders, we usually had a sense of why Indy went from point A to point B while meeting the unexpected, both in terms of confrontations and humor, at every turn.  In Salt, we don’t really know why she’s doing what she’s doing, and, we jump quickly to the next humorless action scene, trusting that some sense will be made of it all later but frustrated that we have so little on which to judge her motivations.  Without the intentional humor of a James Bond or John McClane, the story needs more depth of character to maintain believability in what is presented as a (failed) “this could really happen” storyline.  

It’s fair to say that Jolie has acting range, but in action hero mode, we’re left with the spectacle of a very watchable action figure.  Even though all action movies risk seeming redundant, Salt took on a curious choice of plot in that Cold War spy stories are not only worn out clich├ęs, but they’ve been done better than this time and again.  Only, we didn’t get to watch Angelina Jolie in them.  And that’s why we buy the tickets.  

In short, it’s one of those guilty pleasures of a movie: utter nonsense but enjoyable for both the celebrity and the adrenaline. 

*a laughing matter*

For an anachronistic movie, there is a humorous nod to the present regarding the Swiss cheese security measures surrounding White House access.

*limited spoiler*

The major failure at the end is that Salt’s guilt could easily be judged by asking the President, who witnessed exactly what was done by whom.  The final chapter seemed to short cut this more logical conclusion, either due to lazy writing or a reluctance to end the movie with a section that, by comparison to the bodies-killed-per-minute hitherto, might suggest that the story ran out of gas.

2 of 5 STARS

1 comment :

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