Screening Log #3: Salt (2010)

Free movie passes are a wonderful thing. A friend had two free passes to see Salt last evening and asked me to join them; the film has received generally positive feedback and I usually enjoy the actors in the film, Angelina Jolie, Liev Schrieber, and, Chiwetel Ejiofor, so I thought it would be a decent way to spend a Friday evening.

The film moves predictably enough within the limits of its typically ridiculous plot; Jolie plays Eveline Salt, a CIA secret agent whose rescue from a Korean military camp begins, she is rescued by her partner Ted Winter (Schreiber). Jump ahead to the two bantering in a covert CIA office when a Russian defector comes and says that a Russian plant will kill the president of Russia to begin a world conflict. The defector names Salt as the agent who will perform this task. This acts as the starting pistol for the action of the film with the CIA chasing Salt, Salt jumping and running off of many things to evade them, potentially killing the Russian president and looking for her disappeared husband. All of this with much confusion about who precisely Salt is and where her allegiance lies. The CIA chase is fronted by Ejiofor’s Peabody, who is framed from the beginning as a sever stickler for the rules. Everything culminates, after several reversals and plot twists, in an attempt on the life of the president of the US and the deployment of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Salt posterThe actors of the film all acquit themselves well, Jolie’s preternatural screen presence lends more credence to her character’s plight than the action of the film should be able to instill; Schrieber and Ejiofor both bring gravitas to their roles as well where the script leaves them painted thinly at best. The film is written by Kurt Wimmer whose Equilibrium I have a certain fondness for and whose Ultraviolet I have no love for at all. Wimmer’s script here relocates itself into a contemporary society rather than the – admittedly very derivative – futures of those two films but cover similar themes of political corruption, conspiracy, and female “empowerment”. Here the ability of Jolie truly comes into view as her charisma and presence and ability on the screen float this film where a similarly cast Milla Jovovich – though saddled with a much more cumbersome script – could not bring the same weight to Ultraviolet.

The film is directed by Phillip Noyce, whose career has seen him move through many different genres. His most successful work to my mind was the harrowing Rabbit-Proof Fence. The film moves smoothly and Noyce directs his action sequences competently, though without much flair. Here the touch of Wimmer may have come in handy to add a sense of grandeur to the action set pieces; Wimmer demonstrated – in Equilibrium most spectacularly – to have a sense for exciting and kinetic action choreography.

All in all the film stands as a serviceable action flick; technically competent and clearly laid out, the film is buoyed by the talent of its cast. Salt never fails to engage and involve the audience though seldom rises to astound or awe.

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