May 24, 2013
Written by Jonathan Schumann, Reel Son
Wednesday, 18 August 2010 10:44
Since 1999, this column has offered the latest on new films in theatres as well as recent releases and classics available on DVD. This week, the Reel Son takes a look at a new suspense film, Salt, now on area screens.A diverting, nonsensical addition to this summer movie season, Salt aims to achieve the type of thrills that Jack Ryan and Jason Bourne have brought to audiences in the past. For its first half, Salt certainly delivers, and provides chase sequences on a par with The Fugitive and the latter entries in the Bourne series. Then a series of increasingly absurd plot twists takes over and makes one wonder if the trip to Salt was worth taking in the first place.
In a role originally intended for Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA operative who gets pegged as a Russian double agent. A nifty cat-and-mouse game follows as Jolie attempts to evade her CIA colleagues who are hot on her tail. Director Phillip Noyce has cut intriguing thriller set pieces like this before in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and here he ably demonstrates his mastery of the genre. But this fun and ingenuity eventually recede into the background when the outlandish plot mechanics move to the fore.
As Jolie tries to outrun her pursuers, the film tries to keep us on the edge of our seats. It all surrounds an absurd Russian plot to activate thousands of Russian agents who have been living undercover in the United States for years. Global terror and chaos will surely follow unless, of course, the plot is foiled. But a few key questions remain. Is Salt really a Russian operative? Has she been waiting to strike all along? Who can we really trust? But so many second-half plot twists make it tough for Salt to achieve the seamless tension necessary to keep a guessing game like this going. The film ultimately bungles a hefty bit of the suspense and, when it all becomes clear in the end, it's a tad anticlimactic and more than a bit unsatisfying.
Jolie, though, can't be faulted for the screenplay's absurdist tendencies. She deftly carries the picture. She's rough and tough and demonstrates remarkable physical vigor and even provides a bit of an emotional undercurrent. There are few actors who have reached Jolie's level of international notoriety — one could argue that she's even more famous than hubby Brad Pitt. It's all the more impressive, then, that Jolie pulls off a character and doesn't let any of the external tabloid drama seep onto screen. The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, with Liev Schriber (The Manchurian Candidate) making a strong impression as Salt's co-worker and confidante. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things) is also quite good as a skeptic on Schriber's team.
2-1/2 Popcorn Buckets
Looking for something to rent? Here is a suggestion inspired by Salt:
Patriot Games: After Alec Baldwin stunned in The Hunt for Red October, Harrison Ford took over the role of iconic CIA operative Jack Ryan in this sequel. After he stops an IRA assassination attempt on a member of the British royal family, Ford and his family become the target of the extremists. Apt support comes from Sean Bean, Anne Archer, James Earl Jones, and Polly Walker. Great action sequences abound and Ford again proves to be a great headliner.
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