Tuesday 17 May 2011

Movie Review: Salt (2010)

A 100 minute chase movie, Salt is nothing but energy. A non-stop breathless pursuit, what little plot exists becomes too complicated too quickly given the minuscule amount of time allocated to story-telling. The flying bullets and flying bodies take precedence over everything else, including logic, characters, or any pause for thought.

CIA Agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) has spent time in a North Korean torture cell. Released in a prisoner exchange after her husband Michael (August Diehl) raises the profile of her case, she is heading towards a CIA desk job when Russian defector Vasilly Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) fingers her as a sleeper agent about to be activated to kill the visiting Russian President in New York. Before her guilt or innocence can be established, Salt quickly bolts and makes her escape from Washington DC to New York, with a large posse of agents in hot pursuit, including the CIA's Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) and agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) of the Secret Service.

It turns out that the United States is crawling with Russian Nationalist sleeper agents under Orlov's command, waiting to be activated on this Day X, with an intricate plot to instigate a global nuclear war. Salt is the best of these highly trained traitors, and no one can stop her as she indeed makes it to New York and seemingly assassinates the Russian President. Next up it's back to DC and onto the White House, where Salt helps other Russian agents to rather easily take over the command and control bunker and start the process of launching nuclear missiles. The plan to destroy the world seems to be proceeding flawlessly, but there are more twists to this tale as Salt, Winter and Peabody play out a frantic finale.

A mix between The Manchurian Candidate, James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Mission Impossible, Salt brings little that is new to the all-out-action genre. If anything, the plot is more preposterous than anything offered up in the most far-fetched Bond movies this side of Moonraker. Director Phillip Noyce proved his inability to deliver an effective thriller in the botched Patriot Games, and in Salt he is true to form as he sacrifices all plot elements in favour of the next over-the-top stunt.

Angelina Jolie is by far the best thing going on in Salt, and she impresses with an astounding athleticism which included performing most of her stunts. The support cast have little to do except wave their guns around and take shots at her. Past Jolie's performance, Salt is an endless out of control roller coaster ride: yes it's fast and fun for a while, but energy that is lacking in grounded purpose ultimately results in a forgettable blur.

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