Angelina Jolie in 2010's "Salt."

Salt June 25, 2018  

DIRECTED BY

Phillip Noyce

 

STARRING

Angelina Jolie
Liev Schreiber
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Daniel Olbrychski
August Diehl
Yara Shahidi

 

RATED

PG-13

 

RELEASED IN

2010

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 40 Mins.

accused of being a Russian sleeper agent by a rumpled defector (Daniel Olbrychski). Judging by her initial reaction — a scoff, followed by, when the affront is taken seriously by her superiors, desperate pleas to get ahold of her civilian husband (August Diehl) — we’d like to think that what’s to follow will be a typical accused-person-on-the-run sort of espionage thriller. Hitchcock lite, perhaps.

 

But the movie’s screenwriter, Kurt Wimmer, isn’t exactly interested in the comforts of foreseeability. As Salt progresses, we’re unsure if anything our titular heroine says about herself is true. Some of her ventures to clear her name are very much those in line with the ones that’d probably be made by an ethical CIA operative. But plenty others — namely a couple meet-ups with a modicum of Russian bad guys — make us ask questions. An abstruse heroine if there ever was one. But Jolie is so good as the character that Salt’s pointed untrustworthiness is more often intriguing than it is cryptic and tiresome.

 

So the drawback of Salt, then, is that while Jolie is consistently excellent, the movie which backs her is, er, cryptic and tiresome. The character is intended to be layered and somewhat baffling; part of the feature’s intent, I presume, was to subversively feature an anti-heroine we can never quite decide deserves the anti-heroine honorific at all. For this deliberation to work, though, everything else must be tight and easy to discern. A straightforward, comprehensively written story is the only way to sure-handedly complement a rebus of a protagonist.

 

But Salt’s storyline is as muddled as the motivations of its focal character. (Consider that there are two alternate endings, adding to this idea of narrative fickleness.) Such makes the movie, while visually interesting and cogent on the action front, a perplexing affair of styles. It is a spy thriller that has some semblances of what it wants to be, but never quite knows itself as well as it thinks it does. Jolie's superiority almost gets it somewhere, but not quite. Good thing the unflinching actress is so capable that the movie simply floats in one position rather than outrightly sinking into the cruel depths of forgettable action refuse. C

F

ew performers are as believable and competent when headlining an action movie as the forever-game Angelina Jolie. That’s precisely the problem with Salt (2010): The movie, which is directed by Phillip Noyce, is so focused on Jolie's incomparability that it forgets to unfold as a movie that consists of more than its lead looking cool as a cucumber while pistol-whipping, karate-chopping, high-kicking, parkouring, and more.

 

In the film, Jolie plays the eponymous Evelyn Salt, a poised CIA operative