Salt (2010)

This is probably the last entry I will be able to write for a while since I really don’t have any more time to review films before the summer ends. I had fun writing some reviews up and I hope whoever was reading enjoyed them as well. I’m thinking about starting a review blog this fall/winter that will review not just films and entertainment, but also food, music, and other stuff as well. If you’re interested in writing about these things (for free) email me at andrew dot roback at gmail dot com and we can talk details. Hope you had a great summer! Oh and, officially, this will be my 35th review or something like that. Even though I failed miserably to generate the amount of content I wanted to, well, there’s no excuse, I just failed. Happy rest of the summer :).

Columbia Pictures, 100 min., Dir. Phillip Noyce

(Sort of) heralded as a (pretty decent) action/spy film that will (kind of) take you on a (semi-)non-stop thrill ride, I had expectations for Salt that were (a little) inflated by hype.

However, despite such glowing reviews as “it’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” I was hopeful that I would at least not dislike the film. From the man who directed Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), I was expecting a smart spy film where there were lots of crazy plot developments and a really interesting cold war plot resurrection. Wrong. In other words, this film played more like Mission Impossible III than Mission Impossible.

A lot of reviews I read/heard praised the action element, but there was nothing outstanding. Action movies of this sort eventually devolve into how many different ways can the protagonist dispose of the baddies. Apart from one interesting scene involving a fire-extinguisher propelled homemade explosive, the action was mostly just Angelina Jolie hitting and shooting random guards.

The plot twists are not that interesting, and often don’t reconcile with the supposed plot in some cases. There’s not a whole lot of emotional investment in the characters, and the whole cold-war nuclear tension could not be more underplayed. I was expecting it to improve drastically as the film went on, but it just never did. The ending, which I won’t spoil for those who wish to see it, belongs in a James Bond film where it may be taken with a level of seriousness appropriate to its mustache twisting obviousness.

The fight scenes are completely vanilla (Angelina Jolie is aging and probably shouldn’t have played this role for obvious reasons), and the plot drops out to the most asinine developments possible with ancillary deux ex machina characters tossed in to finish the third act. Much like I was pissed at Iron Man II for overplaying cold war fears, I will reiterate for the rest of us who were born near the tail end: the Cold War is a piece of curious history and not a vivid memory.

The most interesting part of the movie was the idea of a Soviet spymaster creating a group of sleeper agents. Nerd that I am, I would have loved to see more of the training techniques, basically an unpacking of that whole montage. It would have replaced, perhaps, four to six scenes of Ms. Jolie breaking arms and kicking necks, but could have provided some much needed bolstering of the back story that would have made two-dimensional spy cliches into characters.

I don’t see much of a future for this series, even though there is a clear setup for a sequel. The film was trying very hard to be The Bourne Identity, but an aging actress in the lead coupled with poor acting and a bad storyline sabotaged this film right from the start.

5/10: Watch Breach (2007) for a much more entertaining spy film