Review: Salt (the movie)

“I don’t get it. She kept switching sides” said the voice behind me in the movie theatre.

Don’t worry. I didn’t just ruin Salt for you.  That girl was an idiot.

But discovering which team Evelyn Salt is really on is what Salt is all about. Sort of.

The movie started out strong. It’s a good cast, the movie looks expensive and well done, and there are some decently good action scenes in the first half of the movie. All in all, it’s a good set up with all the foundations to keep you guessing “Who is Salt?”

Salt PosterIs she a CIA agent? Is she a Russian spy? Is She a victim of framing in an elaborate cold war terror plot? Who knows?

Well, you do. About 30 minutes into the movie.  The moment she plunked the nasty little spider on the bed the guessing game was over.

That’s what really kills me. They had one of the best actresses in the industry who also happens to have a serious action movie track record (I mean, for a girl) and tons of box office appeal, yet they couldn’t manage a properly written script.

Had they forgone the mystery angle, the flaws might not have been so obvious.

Luckily, the middle of the movie is action packed with an entirely different tone which was a welcome distraction from the plot. There are car chases, prison breaks, shootouts and explosions.  Most of all there’s some serious Jolie attitude.  That, in itself, is what makes the movie.

It’s also what keeps me conflicted.  On the one hand, the script is garbage, but on the other hand, it’s Angelina Jolie with grenades.

If you’d left the theatre before the last 20 minutes you’d miss some show stopping movies, but you’d also miss the horrid ending that they tried to mask as a twist. It was obvious, full of holes and generally just lazy writing.

The other thing I really struggled with is watching Jolie in hand-to-hand combat with men twice her size.

It’s one thing to suspend disbelief because she’s a trained warrior, but it’s another to watch dramatic leaps and fights with a woman who should be fighting in your 12 year old’s weight class.  Her running looked awkward, and many of the stunts were quick which said to me that we weren’t meant to notice the stunt double. Let’s put it this way: Jason Bourne she is not.

But there were two really fantastic action scenes where Jolie, aided by some serious weapons and one hell of an attitude reminded me why I love her.

Angeline Jolie Tomb Raider
Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider
Angeline Jolie and Brad Bitt in Mr and Mrs Smith

Pre-release, Salt got lots of buzz because  the role was originally written for Tom Cruise (nothing like an aging, slightly crazy and barely relevant guy to bring in the box office big ones).  Part of it makes the movie empowering (not many roles for women have them kicking ass and never once needing saving by a man), but it also shows just how far we have to go.  One of the major changes included a rewrite so Salt wouldn’t have to save her husband. Director Phillip Noyce says this:

In the original script, there was a huge sequence where Edwin Salt (the original male protagonist) saves his wife, who’s in danger,” says Noyce. “And what we found in the new script, it seemed to castrate his character a little. So we had to change the nature of that relationship.

Changing the nature of that relationship also changed Salt’s motivation for the entire movie.  Funny how much damage the threat of castration can do.

So would I recommend it? If you a) love watching things blow up or b)just really love Jolie, then I’d say yes. But if you’re going expecting a really great film you’re probably better off staying home on the couch.

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