Monday, July 26, 2010

Salt Film Review

You know the expression, "Art imitates life" or vice versa, "Life imitates art." There are times in cinema history where a movie comes out at a time when its subject matter is a headline in the news. This happened in 1979 when The China Syndrome, a film about a nuclear plant accident, came out and then the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster happened. Director Phillip Noyce's film, Salt, about Russian sleeper agents comes out right when the United States has recently uncovered real sleeper agents though not even close to the danger the fictional ones in Salt posed. The question for Salt is whether it's as good as The China Syndrome.

Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, CIA agent. She's happily married to German arachnologist Mike Krause. (August Diehl) Salt is ready to celebrate her marriage anniversary when a Russian defector named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) is brought in to be interrogated. Salt would rather run home to be with her husband but decides to question Orlov at least for a short period. Bad idea. Orlov announces that there are KGB sleeper agents in the United States and that Salt is one of them. Their current plan? Assassinate the Russian president in town for the funeral of the Vice President of the United States. The purpose? Start a war between the United States and Russia. It's kind of like the plan in the James Bond movie, "The Spy Who Loved Me." (1977) The CIA determines Orlov is telling the truth. Led by agent Peabody, (Chiwetel Ejiofor) the CIA arrests Salt. Unfortunately for Peabody, Salt and Orlov escape. How did we win the Cold War? But I digress, Peabody and now Salt's CIA partner (Liev Schreiber) hunt her down.

It's hard to follow this movie with all the plot holes. Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer trades exposition for kinetic energy. Director Noyce uses the hand held camera the same way the Bourne movies did. It moves all over the place, at times inducing nausea to the audience. The effect? The film is constant action. There's no room to breathe. That could be bad, if I weren't wondering why Salt was doing all the things she was doing. It was both intriguing and irritating. Once you get her motivation, you realize the problem of this movie. Wimmer handles it in a cold manner like the Potomac river in the winter. Hopefully, this won't give the story away, but this could have been solved if Wimmer and Noyce had given more time between Salt and Krause. Of course, that would require the film to slow down somewhere.

The action scenes are well done. It's clear the filmmakers wanted as much actual filmed action as possible avoiding CGI. Yes, there are some over the top pieces where you question that any spy can be that good. But overall, you can believe that a superspy like Salt could do most of those daring feats. Jolie is beautiful but in a kind of thin model way. She's a little too skinny. She does allow her face to be bloodied, so I commend her for setting aside vanity. Still, she gives a believable performance.

Evelyn Salt is different kind of heroine. Her motivations are not so clear. That is what makes this movie different from your hero wearing the white hat story. I would like to see further Salt movies. I can't say this film was better than "The China Syndrome", but it was an exciting ride. The grade is B.

1 comment:

jack said...

i really liked the film, and i like what you think of it. but what did you think of it using russian spies? thats quite unusual these days.
here are my thought on it: