I’m terrified of Angelina Jolie’s mouth.
There I said it. And I’m not taking it back. Throughout watching SALT, I visibly cringed whenever the camera panned, snapped or zoomed in for a close shot of the film’s star, Angelina Jolie and her most notable physical trademark … two warring zeppelins dipped in lip gloss.
And these shots occurred very often.
Why? Because SALT has nothing to do with character, plot, dialogue or any other component part of movie craft that director Phillip Noyce apparently decided was extraneous to this film. What SALT is really about is this: Angelina Jolie looks totally hot while kicking ass. Or … um … she looks totally hot right before the camera cuts and her stunt-double kicks ass.
In a nutshell, Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a tough-as-nails CIA operative (and loving wife) settling into a desk job after being tortured horribly in North Korea. In steps Daniel Olbrychski playing Orlov, a defecting Russian FSB operative who accuses Salt of being a Russian sleeper super-spy that has been trained from childhood to do bad, bad things to America. Salt goes rogue (of course) and skips effortlessly through an unending stream of uninspired action sequences on a quest to clear her name … and save her husband … and save America … and other stuff. Honestly, once I started weeping softly into my upturned hands, I lost track.
During this mess, both Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor play CIA agents (named Ted Winter and Peabody respectively) who chase Salt while engaging in that tired thriller trope where one guy believes she’s innocent and the other doesn’t. These are two actors whose work I’ve generally enjoyed. But in SALT I expected them to break the third wall and say directly to the camera “Because the check cleared. That’s why.”
The central problem with SALT is that it asks the audience to treat the movie in the same way audiences treated wonderful spy thrillers like THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990) or RONIN (1998). Which is to say, the filmmakers behind SALT want us to take the movie seriously, when the fact is that there’s no hook on which to hang that hat.
The only conspicuous use of a screenwriter occurs whenever a character needs to disgorge a heap of exposition or during breaks in the action for a weak attempt at portraying Salt’s romantic life via flashback. The characters are photocopies-of-photocopies-of-photocopies from any number of straight-to-video action films (and everyone’s acting reflects that). All the revelatory moments that are intended to inspire an “Oh my God!” actually get a “You’ve got to be [EXPLETIVE DELETED]ing kidding me!”
And for everything going wrong in SALT, here’s the punch line. There’s a segment of this film where they attempt disguise Angelina Jolie as a man. The result? Let me put it this way … have you ever seen the Wayans Brothers 2004 comedy WHITE CHICKS? (2004). 1
If this movie had been rewritten to be more tongue-in-cheek or even a spoof, then it probably would have been more enjoyable. In that setting, you can go for all the tropes and stereotypes and have fun with them. In SALT, the audience’s laughter was anything but intentional.
The fact is that fans of spy thrillers and action/adventure know to leave their expectation for authenticity and logic at home. That said, filmmakers still need to credit these viewers with more intelligence than someone who must read the instructions on the shampoo bottle every time they use it.
Honestly, watching SALT amounts to time I’ll never get back. It’s not worth a matinee ticket. It’s not worth seeing as a rental. Actually, if your friends rent it, just walk into the kitchen and drink alone for 1.5 hours. You’ll thank me.
But I’ll say this … thank God it wasn’t in 3D.
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Written by: Kurt Wimmer
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Daniel Olbrychski
Run Time: 1hr 39min
— END —
- WHITE CHICKS … a movie of such monolithic badness that after fifteen minutes of viewing, my bowels involuntarily voided themselves with such explosive force that I was propelled out of the theater on a jet stream of feces. This was the first and only time I’ve ever used the phrase, “Thank you exploding bowels.” ↩