Who is Salt? That’s supposed to be a very complex and intriguing question. Like, who is Jason Bourne? Or “What is the ‘Matrix?’” Or better yet “Who shot JR?” But unfortunately it’s not. In fact, it’s kind of a silly question.

“Salt,” the new movie directed by Phillip Noyce (“The Bone Collector,” “Clear and Present Danger”) and written by Kurt Wimmer (“Law Abiding Citizen,” the horrible “Ultraviolet,” and the interesting “Equilibrium”) is a wanna-be espionage thriller that attacks movie-goers in our softest and most vulnerable of places – national security. Starring the extremely malnourished and pasty Angelina Jolie,  “Salt,” tries extremely hard to be the next big thing is female action badassedness.

While the story tries to be deep, it’s actually pretty shallow. Girl is a kick-ass American agent that is qualified in everything that includes killing, fighting and whatever else CIA agents do. Girl gets accused of being a spy by a Cold War Soviet. Girl goes on the run. Things explode, people die, girl is unstoppable force. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Yawn.
To say that this film is based on over-reactions is an understatement.

You’ve actually seen this before, but usually it’s with a dude. See any of the “Bourne” movies, the television show “24” or even “Spies Like Us.”

Jolie as the accused and headlining Evelyn Salt does a good job carrying the film and handling herself within the usual action-dominated world of men. While looking a little frail, Jolie is able to outrun, outgun and out maneuver everything that the United States government is able to throw at her including a nuclear missile crisis. I love seeing tough women in films like this and Jolie is a great fit for this kind of role.

In comparison, her male counterparts look and sometimes act like the clowns that warm up the crowd at a Cirque du Soleil event. Liev Schreiber (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) as her commanding supervisor and Chiwetel Ejiofor (“Serenity”) as Peabody bumble and trip over themselves at every turn as they try to apprehend the ever-allusive Salt. At the same time, a small army of soldiers, security guards, CIA agents and so on, are made to feel the wrath of the women scorned which makes me ask one very important question – If Evelyn Salt is so good, why don’t they just train everyone the same way? Sure would cut down the cost of getting owned by a person who seems to only weigh 70 pounds when wet.

I’m just saying.

Action-wise, the film actually does pretty well. Of course it almost literally steals its action from a host of other movies, but still, Noyce has a knack for understanding the action-spy kind of film. It’s never boring, fun and best of all, it’s shot the way action should be shot – open and wide enough for the audience to see what’s going on.
Now, let’s talk about that question again. You know, the question that this film seems to have built it’s entire marketing campaign around. Who is Salt? Whoever decided on the marketing for this film seems to never have been given the details of the script or had a discussion with the writer or director because that has to be one of the silliest questions ever asked. In comparison “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” is gold. My issue with the question is that it’s not even close to being a mystery. Within the first 20 minutes of the film, you already know who she is, what she’s doing and why she’s doing it. In fact, I bathed my daughter in water deeper than this question. This movie tries so hard to be more and run with the big dogs of spy filmdom, but it doesn’t even come close.

At the same time, and please note, I will be revealing a spoiler – something the filmmakers thought was a big secret but make painfully obvious right away – you just don’t care what happens to Salt. She’s a traitor and Soviet spy. Her motivations aren’t in the best interest of our country; it’s out of revenge. This is a film about the holes in our national security and you want me to root for the bad guy (or girl in this case?) Come on. I love films where the line is blurred between good and evil, but here we have a good, old-fashioned spy-caper, kind of film that you lose complete interest in once the truth is revealed.

Overall, “Salt” is a decent action film that suffers from unoriginality and a complete lack of tension. Maybe I would feel a little bit better about it if I hadn’t read Chuck Palahniuk’s book “Pygmy” within the last year or so – which, on a side note, is a challenge to read but a hell of a lot more fun than this film. I think most moviegoers will enjoy it for it’s tough-as-nails female lead and mindless fun, but for me, it was just another bargain-bin romp at the movies.

2.5 out of 5 Chemical Fire Extinguisher Bombs

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