“Salt” is an interesting sort of movie. It has a fascinating premise, an above average script, well-respected actors and, in due course, the right amount of flair that a summer movie is expected to have. It also takes a political fiction angle that most movies these days do not out of fear that it might either alienate a large majority of the mainstream audience or not become a financial success for the filmmakers. If anything, I’ve at least got to admire the film in that regard.
So why exactly then does “Salt” not work? With this many good things going for it, one may expect it to be partly enjoyable. For the sake of saving time, it is…for about the first two-thirds. The point at which it started to lose me was at the beginning of the third act in which Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) executes a mission to sneak into the White House and stage an event that can, in turn, initiate the threat of war between the U.S. and Russia. At this point, the political fiction angle has run its course and keeping the story locked in the real world now seems ludicrous. It becomes a bit dumb compared to the other two-thirds (and we saw Salt jump across semi-trucks on the freeway in the first third. ON THE FREEWAY!).
The basic plot here is that Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent, is put on trial after the interrogation of a Russian spy (Daniel Olbrychski) goes wrong. He speaks of Day X, a plan devised with the intent of sending the United States into great devastation. He mentions that Evelyn Salt is the name of the assailant who is to carry out this plan. Sparking controversy among her fellow CIA agents, the idea that Salt may be actually be in alliance with the Russian radicals becomes more and more apparent. The question REALLY is where her allegiance lies: with the Russians or with the Americans.
What occurs once her cover is blown is a cat-and-mouse chase; CIA officials searching for Salt. One such scene includes the above-mentioned “jump across trucks on the freeway” sequence. As strange as it sounds, action scenes such as these are interesting to watch and well directed. They are not hard to follow, but they maintain a slick pace and caught my attention when they came on. They are only improved by the initial ambiguity of the Salt character early on and also by the well-written script.
Unfortunately, the script is persistently undercut by incongruent physics among the real world, or as I call them, moments of utter WTF-ery. One can come to expect this from movies coming from the action-thriller vein, but sometimes the reality of the film as a whole is questionable (may I once again reiterate the freeway-truck-jumping?). What we have in Salt is possibly the most agile, resourceful, quick-thinking, nimble, and indestructible individual ever. Basically Superman, Spider-Man, MacGyver and Samus Aran all rolled into one. Need proof? She makes what is fundamentally a mortar launcher out of cleaning materials she finds in a closet in a matter of seconds.
Ultimately, I came extremely close to liking this movie. I really did. I still do think that you should see it in some way, shape or form, whether that means renting, watching on a plane or catching it a few years later on television. I just think that paying full price in a theater setting might be slightly underwhelming for most. Like I said, it DOES have good lead performances, a good script, somewhat interesting action sequences and great setpieces. But toward the end, “Salt” loses its steam much too quickly until it just kind of fizzles out anticlimactically. Not a complete letdown, but nothing I will probably remember a year from now.