Sunday, February 12, 2017

Salt: Director's Cut


Starring: Angelina Jolie, Live Schrieber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski

The version being reviewed is unrated.  For the record, the theatrical cut is rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Violence and Action

The idea behind "Salt" is better as a concept than a reality.  Is the woman we are told to sympathize with a hero or a villain?  It sounds great in theory, but there's a problem: we in the audience don't know who to sympathize with.  There's no one on screen to form a bond with, because everyone is so mysterious that we aren't sure who they really are.  Not only does this highlight the seams of the plot (of which there are a few), it makes feel resentful at the film for jerking us around.

CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is on her way out the door to celebrate her anniversary with her husband when a Russian spy walks in prepared to spill his guts.  His name is Orlov (Olbrychski).  According to Orlov, the Soviet Union raised a significant amount of children to be sleeper agents all over the world, lying in wait until Day X, when they are activated and overthrow their respective governments.  An agent he knows of is named Evelyn Salt, which Evelyn says is ridiculous because she is Evelyn Salt.  Orlov then informs her that she is a covert Soviet agent.  As her superiors Ted Winter (Schrieber) and Peabody (Ejiofor) argue over what to do, Salt goes on the run.  The question is, is she really innocent or an actual assassin?

The acting is solid, which considering that the actors have to express themselves without giving anything away, should be applauded.  Few actresses can match the charisma, talent and sex appeal of Angelina Jolie, and that's why she's a born movie star.  Truth be told, this role doesn't require much of her considerable talents, but when it comes to looking cool and kicking ass, there's no one better.  Live Schrieber and Chiwetel Ejiofor are on hand, but like Jolie, their talents are largely wasted.  Daniel Olbrychski acts creepy and mysterious, but that's as far as his character goes.

The film is wall to wall with sensational stunts and special effects, which is fitting for a movie with a $110 million budget.  One or two of them are suspenseful, I'll admit, but I didn't care because I was irritated at the film for jerking me around.  There are also some neat twists, but again, they felt less like a story that follows its own logic than a screenwriter who is desperate to keep the audience guessing.  Considering that Kurt Wimmer, who wrote "Law Abiding Citizen," another thriller with similar problems, my guess is on the latter.  You know your movie doesn't work when you get to the end and the audience realizes that if the characters didn't act like idiots, the whole plot could have been avoided.

I think the script needed another rewrite or two.  And maybe a more confident director.  It has potential, but needed people dedicated enough to see it through to the end.

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