Thursday, July 29, 2010
“Salt” (opened July 23 throughout San Diego) tells the story of Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie), a dutiful C.I.A. agent who’s looking to hang up the spy gear and get a desk job so she can enjoy her life with the man she loves. However, on the day of her anniversary, she gets called in to do one more assignment before heading home. A Russian defector has arrived with information about a possible assassination attempt on the Russian president’s life. It sounds urgent, but his theory is cluttered with so much Cold War paranoia mumbo jumbo that it’s hard for Salt or anyone to take him seriously. But, just as Salt heads out the door, the defector gives the name of the Russian spy who will be responsible for said assassination, and the name is "Salt!"
Of course, this can’t be. Salt is a patriotic, happily married woman with a nice life and a good job. Could she really be a Russian spy trained as a child and planted in the United States to initiate the downfall of America from within? Well, if you make it through this twist-filled, fast-paced, bordering on the absurd action-thriller, you can find out for yourself.
If you’ve seen any of the film’s advertisements boasting the tagline: “Who is Salt?”, you have a good idea of where this movie’s mind is at. You can never know for sure if anyone is who they say they are. At any moment, one character might start speaking Russian or shooting up the place with no warning whatsoever. It certainly produces a dizzying effect on the audience as you continually question and reassess what exactly you think is happening. It works well enough, as it pulls you into the action on screen, even if you’re not entirely invested in it. Multiple chase scenes find our heroine walking from window ledge to window ledge outside an apartment complex; leaping from truck top to truck top on a busy freeway; and jumping from elevator beam to elevator beam eight miles underground just outside the President’s emergency bunker. As you can see, this film revels in progressively upping the ante in absurdity to an almost unbearable degree. Yet, perhaps the most startling thing about this film may be how it manages to wrap itself up in a most conventional manner.
Many have pegged this as Jolie’s “Bourne” movie, and it’s not a far off comparison. However, the "Bourne" saga was a more inventive, exciting, and compelling franchise than this film ever manages to be. But, you may ask, isn’t "Salt" enjoyable in a purely superficial, action-movie way? Yes, probably. But will I walk out of it feeling like I could have done so much more with the hour and 40 minutes I just spent watching that movie? Yes, definitely.
"Salt" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.
-Michael Shymon just finished his freshman year at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts where he's studying Film & Television Production. He's hoping one day all this movie watching will finally pay off. While he's home for summer break in San Diego, he'll be resuming his duties as a KPBS Teen Critic.