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Wick's Review

Created Aug 01, 2010 10:28PM PST • Edited Nov 25, 2018 06:30PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Great 4.0

    Angelina Jolie does everything but introduce herself as Salt, Evelyn Salt in this geopolitical ultra-action thriller. Possessing the suave savoir-faire associated with Bond, James Bond, her Salt is the kind of old-school secret agent that trades in glamour as much as grit. Put it this way: Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer aren’t nearly so cool as Evelyn Salt. Plus she’s dramatically – dramatically – better looking than they are.

    Where Casino Royale got to cheekily play on tradition, Salt successfully opens fresh wounds, establishing itself as the 21st century’s first new megaspy franchise. Salt’s misfortune of opening in the wake of Inception won’t be long remembered, as it’s well on its way to pleasing masses around the world while serving as the forebear of major sequels to come.

    Famously developed for Tom Cruise, director Philip Noyce and the rest of the behind-the-camera talents are to be commended for switching Edwin to Evelyn. While it’s impossible now to imagine the character personified by anyone but Jolie, the fact that it’s a gender-bender makes for a much more interesting movie.

    Fans of popcorn action flicks, spy movies, and la femme Angelina will find this first installment of the new Salt franchise a seductive pleasure.

  3. Great 4.0

    The fullest and most well rounded performance of Angelina Jolie’s superstar career, Salt gives us all of her. She opens shockingly enough in her bloody skivvies, being tortured by the North Koreans. Cinematic moments later, she uses her panties to block a security cam.

    In between the above scenes comes the calm center of this stormy movie, a crucial interrogation scene during which her facial architecture becomes a wonder to behold: impossibly high cheekbones create fast moving tectonic plates across her countenance, all framed around a pair of lips like two red fingers held to the mouth, the top one’s inviting arch a constant subconscious distraction. Central casting doesn’t make ‘em any more perfect than Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand’s daughter.

    Yet her performance is much more than just a display of nonpareil feminine wiles. Cool as a cucumber in what is hardly a one note performance, she graces nearly every scene, a welcome abundance after what was essentially a supporting turn in Wanted. Emoting, exclaiming, ejecting, she plays the full spectrum of screen personas, doing so with grit, glamour and grace, not to mention in three hair colors and through several double-crosses.

    She’s become the definitive strong-woman in dire circumstances. Her signature WHERE’S MY SON??!!! from Changeling here is a more Mighty Heart-like WHERE’S MY HUSBAND?, notwithstanding the essentially silly nature of Salt vis-à-vis those deadly serious forbears.

    The other players wilt in the brilliance of her star power.

    • Liev Schreiber’s baritone solidity measures up to what his second-banana role requires. No more.
    • Chiwetel Ejiofor’s tight-ass CIA officer lacks gravitas.
    • Daniel Olbrychski’s malevolent Russian kingpin seems hackneyed.
    • Andre Braugher barely registers in a brief turn as the Secretary of Defense.

    One minor positive note: Gaius Charles delivers a distinctive turn as a junior CIA agent. It looks like Friday Night Lights’ Smash Williams has a future beyond gridiron drama.

  4. Male Stars Very Good 3.5
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0

    Angelina – the $20 million woman – is worth every penny.

  6. Female Costars Very Good 3.5
  7. Male Costars Very Good 3.5
  8. Great 4.0

    Enjoying an ultra-action film like this requires enjoying ridiculously over-the-top stunts and FX. Clearly the heroine will escape each inescapable trap, room or dilemma she faces. The fun comes from watching how she does it and laughing along with the inventive preposterousness of it all.

    The good news is that Philip Noyce’s film is inventively preposterous on a consistent basis. Plus he wisely telegraphs most of her moves in advance, making the foreplay part of the fun and the climaxes sweeter.

  9. Direction Really Great 4.5
  10. Play Great 4.0

    Kurt Wimmer’s well conceived and executed script nonetheless has several clunker lines, plus it gets more than a little ridiculous as the film proceeds. Still the creation of Evelyn Salt is a writer’s accomplishment as much as an actor’s.

    Could Wimmer have known that she’d be preceded to the silver screen by a prepubescent foreshadowing? I refer of course to Kick-Ass’s Hit-Girl, who could use Salt as an adult role model, kind of a Hit-Woman sans the gratuitous potty-talk.

    Speaking of role models, why did they have Jolie’s character say “I hate math” to a neighbor girl? Not very empowering.

  11. Music Very Good 3.5
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Amongst the first rate settings is an abandoned Russian monastery, a frozen fortress of onion domes that nicely establishes the enemy as more Russian than Soviet. Interestingly, the filming locations listed on IMDb don’t list any such property. Thus it was probably just an FX vision, a holodeck kind of thing.

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.6

    Comik violence: lots of shooting, collisions and explosions without the attendant guts, gore or grief. Thus the PG-13.

  15. Sex Innocent 1.2
  16. Violence Fierce 1.8
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.7
  18. Surreal 2.8

    Three dozen stunt players, including a pyrotechnican, aided and abetted by 20 special FX and 200 visual FX technicians make the surreal look real. To wit, action movie conventions get taken to extremes:

    • Jumping from the top of one speeding truck onto the top of another and then another? No problem.
    • Skulls bashed and uppercuts to the jaw without any concussions or even a loose tooth? Sure.
    • The apparently dead reappear smiling and waving? Of course.

    More seriously, the movie stews up a squishy moral equivalence between the Russian Soviets and the US. For instance, notice the presence of an oil company headquarters building a stone’s throw from the White House in an early establishing shot. Thus the oil industry is made to appear a figurative adjunct of the US government, while burnishing Philip Noyce’s Hollywood Lefty credentials.

  19. Circumstantial Surreal 3.0
  20. Biological Surreal 3.0
  21. Physical Surreal 2.5


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