Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The Berlin Wall fell more than twenty years ago, but it is still much alive in the movies. Here comes a spy thriller involving Russia, secret agents, and nuclear arms, yet set in modern day America. It is utterly preposterous at every turn and for the most part an entertaining and satisfying thriller. Salt opens up in North Korea with the title character Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) being tortured for being a spy, denying the claim, and being released in a prisoner swap (is her surname a reference to the armament control treaties between the U.S. and Russia in the 70s?). We jump two years forward to the present, where Salt has been assigned to a desk and it seems like a normal day. On her way home, while talking with her coworker Ted (Live Schrieber), they receive a report that a Russian defector has entered the building and go to interrogate him. After telling a ludicrous story about Russian babies being abducted and trained as spies, he then tells Salt that she is a Soviet agent assigned to assassinate the Russian president at the recently deceased U.S. Vice President’s funeral in New York. Instead of straightening things out, Salt beats up her coworkers and escapes leading to a series of fights, chases, double crosses, plot twists, and possible global devastation. Salt is directed by Phillip Noyce and written by Brian Helgeland, and here they are able to make an entertaining story out of a ludicrous plot. There is a nod to Die Hard, and I thought they were channeling The Fugitive for a while. The plot does not always go where you expect it too though sometimes it does. Ms. Jolie  succeeds in another portrayal of a kick-ass heroine, though I think that Schrieber needs to stick to narrating History Channel documentaries, as he again fails playing his usually glib character. In the end, we feel we got our money’s worth and I’m sure action junkies will be satisfied.  I think a word deserves to be said about the action sequences in the film. Noyce directs them with a skill and clarity that is lacking in most auctioneers these days. In this film, you know who is shooting at or hitting who and the scenes always seem to make sense, unlike the Bourne films where the shaky cam leaves you never quite sure. They are also sure handedly choreographed and directed, unlike the disappointing Inception, where loud and intense music was supposed to mask and enhance disappointing fight scenes. The handling of these scenes help to make Salt an entertaining experience.