Review: SALT (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Review: SALT (2010)

RATING: 2.5/5

Believe it or not, SALT was originally intended to have a male lead in which Tom Cruise was approached to play the title character. Unfortunately, he declined the offer and the script was subsequently rewritten with a female lead instead. On the bright side, the movie is a typical summer action extravaganza that is pure formula and little innovation. Blessed with a fast-paced script and an intoxicating lead by action-ready Angelina Jolie, SALT looks destined to be a surefire winner as the best action picture this lackluster summer where movies like THE A-TEAM and KNIGHT AND DAY has previously failed.

The movie begins with a bang where we witness top CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) was being captured in North Korea and held her for interrogation, while subsequently endured in a painful torture. But thanks to her mentor, Winter (Liev Schreiber), she manages to be set free and returns to her country safely. Two years later, Salt is looking forward to celebrate her second wedding anniversary to arachnologist Mike (August Diehl) but she finds herself in an unexpected situation when she is accused by a terminally-ill Russian defector Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) of being a Russian spy. She keeps telling to her fellow colleagues that she is innocent, but CIA agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) beg to differ. Even Winter is hardly convinced as well. Salt has no choice but to escape, as she is desperately trying to clear her name and protect her husband from harm's way. As she goes on subsequently outrun and outwit both the Secret Service and the CIA, the story also subsequently revealed a twist involving a high-profile assassination against the President of the United States that re-ignites the Cold War paranoia.

On the surface, the story sounds intriguing enough that keeps the viewers on the edge of their seat determined whether Salt is innocent or just a manipulator after all. The subsequent revelation about the whole agenda and Salt's true identity as well as the movie's final third-act surprise twist are nicely played out altogether. But shame about the logical explanation though, in which the movie is packed with a whole lot of suspension of disbelief that the viewers are clearly needed to have an open mind to enjoy it.

In the meantime, director Phillip Noyce who last helmed a major studio picture in 1999's THE BONE COLLECTOR before subsequently laying low with a string of independent movies, still has what it takes to make a blockbuster extravaganza. He certainly knows well when comes to elicit suspenseful, edge-of-the-seat moments while the action set pieces are equally captivating. Too bad he's hardly an accomplished action director. The more the movie moves on, the more the action has quickly becomes apparent that Noyce have to resort into lots of close-ups shots and inevitable shaky-cam style which are rather annoying most of the times.

Still the movie remains a guilty-pleasure fun, thanks to gamely entertaining performances by Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Daniel Olbrychski. Jolie, in particular, is a magnetic screen presence as always. Like her previous action-packed role in TOMB RAIDER (2001) and WANTED (2008), Jolie is natural when comes to handling physically-demanding performance.

SALT remains a half-baked espionage thriller that the shamelessly open ending intended for the filmmakers to build a potential franchise a la THE BOURNE IDENTITY, doesn't seem to be convincing enough for a launching point. Perhaps the best is yet to come, if there's really a sequel highlighted in the future.

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