Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writer(s): Kurt Wimmer
Cinematography: Robert Elswit
Original Score: James Newton Howard
Running Time: 100 Mins.
Ever since the (largely unprecedented) success of the Bourne franchise Hollywood studios have been falling over themselves in attempts to repeat the formula, and while Bourne’s main competition/forefather the Bond franchise flounders in developement hell due to MGM’s legal wrangles now would seem as good a time as any to challenge the crown of “big action blockbuster featuring a spy”. Some would argue Knight & Day attempted a similar feat earlier in the summer but the truth of the matter is that that film was a different beast altogether, more concerned with self mockery at the expense of its star and the genre that it was at forging the way for a sequel.
On the other hand Salt leaves its film as wide open for a sequel as ever I have seen, even down to the point I would warn people of this fact…Salt should well have been called Salt:Part 1 for there is very little resolution to be found upon the close to the stage where I literally couldn’t believe the film had ended as anti-climatically as I had just witnessed, this kind of ending is usually reserved for the poorest or the poor in the horror genre. Not only do we end up with a set up for another film rather we are left literally hanging with an incomplete story-arc in this one, 2 thirds of a film if you will, something made all the more frustrating given that the poor box-office receipts in the U.S. means we are unlikely to ever see the conclusion!
Missing conclusion aside Salt provides an entertaining, if rather pedestrian take on a story that is very mush rooted in the 80’s when the Russians were Hollywood’s villain of choice, hence all the stereotypes are present and correct along with the dogged agent chasing our hero/anti-hero and a last-minute turn-coat/reveal that was predictable from the first frame. The most intriguing thing about Salt is the title, fir those not in the know it is the surname of Angelina Jolie’s supposed deep as you can get under-cover agent, and as for the question posed by the tagline “who is Evelyn Salt?”, it is a quandary that is posed throughout the film and the one of two things that will keep you entertained as the answer is never really clear, right up until the anti-climax.
As for entertainment value, director Noyce is not too shabby a director and old-hat at this spy stuff, a Jack Ryan veteran (Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games) he knows how to stage a set piece and up the action ante suitably, ,meaning that Salt (thankfully) spends little time letting you think about what is happening, jumping from chase scene to shootout at a frantic pace that clearly wants to ape Jason Bourne’s escapades while not quite capturing that level of sheer brutality on the whole, there are some rather inventive kills and as ever Jolie is a convincing action woman giving it her all.
In a week that sees testosterone overtake the cinema in the form of Stallone’s Expendables, if that film represents the more brutish side of 80’s action Salt would like to be the cerebral one…alas on that front it doesn’t really succeed, especially where a little light-heartedness would have gone a long way as Salt (both film and character) take themselves far too seriously in a film that has a rather unbelievable plot.
Salt is a by the numbers spy film that never strives for anything more, not necessarily a terrible thing as the action delivers as do the actors, but stereotypes and a frustratingly inconclusive finale leave you with a bitter taste and struggling for memories of anything, well, memorable.