Salt

UK DVD release date: 13th December 2010
Certificate: 15
Running time: 100 mins (extended version)
Director: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Genre: Action
UK distributor: Sony
Format: DVD/Blu-Ray
Country: USA

Like so many CIA operatives before her Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is identified as a Russian spy and is forced to go on the run in order to clear her name and in doing so only convinces those hunting her that they’ve got the right woman…and to bring her in. Tasked with the “manhunt” is the one person who knows Salt better than anyone else, her mentor (Schreiber).
 
Directed by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games) and scribed by the writer of Equilibrium (Kurt Wimmer), Salt sets its stall out from the get go as a high performance action flick with a dash of political thriller to ground what is well trodden ground. Having been released from a North Korean military prison, accused of spying, Evelyn returns to D.C and the world of international counter intelligence. Two years later Salt is pulled into the middle of a Russian defection operation, not an everyday occurrence since the fall of the iron curtain, and on to a plan to “destroy America” using a sleeper agent from mythical KA12 programmer and that spy just happens to be Evelyn Salt.

The recent identification of Russian agents operating within the United States has led to a resurgence of the ‘Cold War Spy Film’, three of 24’s eight seasons contain Russian storylines within the U.S borders and Salt looks and feels like a technologically advanced return to the days of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and the original Manchurian Candidate enthused with the tension and innovation of the Bourne trilogy. When a film script is passed on by Tom Cruise it can ultimately led to many disheartened individuals who have spent a lot of time bringing an idea to fruition how lucky they were to get the female equivalent to Cruise, but arguably tougher. Jolie is no action movie virgin, Tomb Raider, Mr. & Mrs. Smith…even Wanted all prove that Ange can bruise with the best of them and Salt is no exception. Straight from the off she balances the sexuality and physically in a way that can’t be matched by leading ladies in Hollywood at the moment. There have been many occasions in cinema and television were the action heroin has been a little less than convincing but Jolie can throw a punch and has a darkness, even in her nicest of characters, that gives even the most two dimensional script well needed depth. Schreiber performs well if, and quit fittingly for a G-Man, by the book adhering to the tested formula of trusting mentor/faithful friend and all the while plays both his affection for Evelyn and his disapproval of the Agencies methods to capture the rogue agent. The master and student relationship is one that usually sees the master bested by their young cub on several occasions, which is a necessary device in order to keep the film longer than ten minutes. Usually this stems from an unspoken telepathy between the two which in the hands of lesser actors can appear hokey but the relationship between Salt and Winter is written in the gesturality of the performers and delivered with perfection.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Peabody) gives his best Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive impression…though slightly more shoot first physically interrogate later. The use of the word “impression” is not meant to be a slight on Ejiofor, he’s an extremely accomplished and intelligent actor who’s characters main purpose is to drive the film.  After all it’s pretty pointless to run if nobody’s chasing you. It works. He’s an excellent actor who has mastered his craft and brings to boil the intensity needed to match Jolie and make him a worthy adversary yet managing to keep it from bubbling over allowing the audience to root against him but at the same time know he’s just doing his job.

As composers go there’s few bigger than James Newton Howard and his scoring is faultless. Salt's initial escape from the CIA is one of exhilaration and menace that put your adrenaline levels through the roof and you to the end of the seat. It’s a little conservative at times, you will be adamant that you’ve heard parts of it before and it wouldn’t sound out of place alongside Jack Bauer taking down a gang of terrorists with a stolen nuke but that’s also not a criticism. The action genre and audience have a certain short hand with one another and when composers, directors and writers begin to play with that you end up with either a cinematic mess (Vantage Point) or a far superior genre film (The American) but it’s a risk.
 
The cinematography very much reiterates the score's sentiment adhering to the tried and tested conventions of the genre, nothing wrong with that. Die Hard is a master-class on how to direct an action movie…it’s also an excellent action movie. Visually Salt is made up of several wonderfully crafted set pieces, the escape from the CIA leading into the jump from the bridge is excellent as it refuses to let you go for even a moment. The church sequence mixes the physically of Salt’s world with the somber mood inside extremely well, never really favouring one over the other and always keeping the tension levels slightly below unbearable.

Salt pitches itself as a political action thriller but in truth the politics is of no consequence and though the action set pieces get more and more extravagant as the film progresses it is because of that a typical action film. Ultimately there is little in Salt that you haven’t seen in Three Days of the Condor, Fail Safe or any of the Jack Ryan films but, what it is, is a solidly dependable, well made, old fashioned spy movie even if a little predictable.







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