Back in 2008, Angelina Jolie’s Wanted came out in theaters. The movie was typical summer Hollywood fluff and was an easy thing to enjoy. “[O]verall, it is fun to watch, a sight to behold, and one of the more memorable movie-going experiences you’ll have this summer,” I wrote.
Jolie’s latest attempt at grabbing the summer crowd comes in the form of Salt, where Jolie tries to replicate the success of her past summer flicks. But, unlike her past attempts, Salt fails on almost every level, from unrealistic action scenes to a more than predictable plot “twist” at the end.
The story centers around CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Jolie), who is accused of plotting to kill the Russian president by Russian defector Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski). The accusation triggers a chase where friend and fellow CIA agent Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) and the more skeptical Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) pursue her. The movie asks “Who is Salt?” but right away, the clues are evident about Salt’s purpose.
She takes time to pack her husband’s (August Diehl) spiders and drops off her dog with a neighbor before fleeing. How responsible for someone who is accused of being a cold-hearted terrorist.
This is when the action starts, and the ridiculousness (I mean that in the worst way possible) ensues. Salt is able to jump between and over various moving targets and subdue any of those who attempt to get in her way. Over and over again, Salt is captured only to be shuttled away in minimum security before escaping again. If a terrorist who killed a diplomat was captured, would she be whisked away in an NYPD squad with two officers watching her?
Later on, Salt is charged with infiltrating the President of the United States’ secret bunker. Yet for all of the advanced security and technology that protects the president, two times during this chase scene the entrances to this ultra secret facility are guarded by a single old and overweight guard.
Now, certainly, there’s nothing wrong with movie portraying an character with limitless physical capabilities. It was done in Wanted, and none do it better than Jolie, who almost single handedly saves Salt with her performance. But the main problem is that Salt takes itself seriously and right from the get-go.
When we first meet Salt, she is found in a North Korean interrogation hold, stripped to under underwear while being water boarded for information about being an American spy sent to infiltrate a nuclear base. As a result, the viewer is asked to be firmly rooted in the reality of the real world, but instead leads us to cartoonish action later on. Either the story is to be taken seriously or not, but director Phillip Noyce tries to have it both ways and the movie folds under the pressure quickly.
And while we’re on the topic – Salt evades capture many times throughout the movie by wave after wave of America and Russia’s most highly trained operatives. How, then, can Salt be so careless to be captured by the North Koreans and then not be able to escape?
These are conundrums I refused to address in Wanted, but are perfectly fair game for Salt. Without suspending the viewer’s belief, Salt offers little payoff. It is little fun to watch and one of the more annoying movie-going experiences you’ll have this summer.
Rating: * ½ (out of 5)
Wesley Cheng is a contributing writer for CultureBlues.com.