Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Written by: Kurt Wimmer
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofer, and Daniel Olbrychski
In the age of the 3D cash-in, Hollywood has been lax on its movie stars. Unless you call Sam Worthington, “star” of Avatar and Clash of the Titans, one, you don’t actually find many legitimate celebrities inhabiting these movies for more than a cameo. You can say what you want about explosions and gun shots flying at you in 3D, but if you don’t have star power behind it, your movie will just be replaced by the next quick sell.
From Inception to Knight and Day, the movies that will define the summer of 2010 for better or worse are the ones with the big ideas and the bigger stars. Phillip Noyce’s Salt is a combination of both, with a very large emphasis on the star and a small focus on ideas. Helming his action crusade is Angelina Jolie. Ms. Jolie has two onscreen personas, the tearful Oscar contender (Changeling) and the bad ass action star (Wanted). Here she is the latter, shooting and killing her way through a script that has us questioning her allegiance at every turn.
As Evelyn Salt, Jolie plays a government agent. Whether she works for the U.S. or the Russians is up in the air for most of the film, but this is a Hollywood blockbuster, what do you think the answer is? The surprise comes not int he final answer, but how convincingly Jolie pulls off the twists everyone can see coming.
Noyce, whose previous features include Patriot Games and The Quiet American, is not prone to making dumb action flicks. Salt isn’t one, mostly because all of the makers behind it are professional enough to let the cliches just happen and pummel the audience with wit, intrigue, and karate. At times it appears as if his camera has as much trouble keeping up with Salt as the agents pursuing her. Some of the fight scenes lose intensity because they don’t capture the full fluidity of the motions. Trying to be a Bourne movie and remain sleek isn’t possible.
As far as acting goes, Jolie does excel at playing Salt. She makes the wise choice of remaining silent as she did in Wanted. When she does speak, it’s engaging enough, but the quiet ass-kicker is her forte. It’s good when the star’s image is a good one.
Liev Schreiber is the back-up actor as Salt’s confidant in the agency. Schreiber is an underrated actor, and here he gets to shine a bit even if he remains largely unused.
Salt probably won’t be remembered for much more than it’s black-haired heroine pummeling foes, but the sequel-baiting ending shows that perhaps the studios have faith in Jolie to carry a movie like this to box office success. Progress? Maybe, but a little more quality in the material would be appreciated next time.