Aug 2, 2010

[Movies] Salt (2010)

Salt (2010)Spy movies have always been a bit hit-or-miss for me. They can be pretty fun and all but sometimes they dip into the shallower side of science fiction (or even fantasy) when they resort to ridiculous technologies that perform more of the work for the characters than they should. As much as I love technology and gadgets in general, I don't appreciate it when the writers decide to jump the shark that way.

So yeah, I'm the kind of person who's seen a number of James Bond movie. but never really got around to putting any serious effort into watching the whole series. I catch spy movies here and there, but more likely because they're set in a dystopian future or involve some science fiction concept somehow. Sorry, it's just a thing with me, I guess.

But every now and then there comes along a movie that reminds me why the genre still has hope. And this is founded on the fact that as much as spy movies can only go so far in terms of the concepts they play around with, sometimes a fairly new combination can come along that just might surprise you.

Salt is a 2010 action spy thriller directed by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) and written by Kurt Wimmer (Ultraviolet, Equilibrium) and Brian Helgeland (The Bourne Surpremacy, Conspiracy Theory). One can see slight touches of the movies of their history, but not so much so that any one movie is overly present.

Angelina JolieImage via Wikipedia
The movie centers around a Russian defector named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) who is brought in for his initial interrogation to determine his legitimacy. The incident brings together Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie), her colleague Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) and counter intelligence agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). In the course of the investigation, Orlov reveals an elaborate plot by members of Russian Intelligence to plant deep cover agents in the US several decades ago. And as icing on the cake, he claims that Evelyn Salt is one such operative and her mission is to assassinate the Russian President when he comes to attend the Vice-President's funeral.

Salt goes on the run, professing her innocence. At the same time, she does her best to locate her husband, scientist Mike Krause (August Diehl), since she suspects the Russians will be after him in order to get to her. And thus the big chase ensues with Salt applying her superior espionage and evasion training to stay one step ahead of the CIA, who are trying to bring her in for extensive questioning.

The movie naturally has a lot of good action - when you're given Angelina Jolie as a lead, you can imagine the stunts that she accomplish. The sheer physicality that she carries with her when she becomes a part of any movie is always rather compelling for as long as it doesn't take away from the story itself. Plus it wasn't overly elaborate fighting that would make it seem like she was a superhero or anything. Instead, we get a lot of close quarters fighting and Jolie really trying to fight smarter rather than harder.

The story is also pretty satisfying. You start with unusual premise of the whole Russian insertion project, Salt's claims of being innocent and then we get to follower appearing to be taking steps to fulfill the parameters of her supposed mission from the Russians. There was also the whole big thing about her German spider-loving boyfriend (who was kind of ugly by the way) with the whole side plot of trying to figure out how to save him and all that.

Noyce certainly has a good grasp for how to handle action, especially when it involves close quarters combat and the occasional complex action setup and execution moment. Thus in these scenes he certainly shines and he gets to utilize Jolie to full effect. I'm still undecided if the movie needed more exposition behind Salt's motivations given we just end up watching what she's doing. It puts a greater burden on the audience to figure things out and this might not sit too well with some people. It doesn't go all the way to becoming a movie that is too smart for some segments of the population, but it does manage to come across as being a bit too fast or too assuming. And thus you just have to keep up and see how things development over time.

I want to get into talking more about the individual performances of the other actors, however I don't want to get into spoilers just yet. A lot of their key moments are too connected to critical plot point, so let's just say that they were all pretty good too, but not necessarily overly stellar or spectacular.

Salt is a good action movie that feels like it appeals to more classical spy movie sensibilities. It gets 3.5 instances of Salt stealing someone's clothes out of a possible 5.
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