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SALT (2010)

A 2010 movie starring Angelina Jolie

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SALT Fattens Up the Fun, but The Screenplay Lacks Taste

  • Jul 25, 2010
There are certain movies out there in Hollywood that take themselves seriously.  That ask you to believe what you're seeing on screen.  And in essence these movies typically tend to try and be believable.  Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark comes to mind with these kind of movies.  As do film's such as Nolan's Batman movies.  The happenings in these movies the director tries to make seem real.  SALT on the other hand, isn't one of those movies.  It doesn't ask you to believe everything that's happening, it only ask for you to sit down and enjoy the ride.  This is demonstrated by the films sometimes over-the-top and absurd moments.  SALT has moments that take itself seriously, but for the most part there are moments that are so absurd you're laughing at them.  Story isn't the reason you're really going to see SALT. 

As Thrillers often go we're given a premise that's a little out there.  Almost absurd like.  Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt.  A woman who works as a spy for the CIA.  At one point the CIA gets a hold of a man named Orlov.  An apparent defect from the Russians.  They send Salt in to interrogate him and he reveals to her a plan that the Russians have been cooking up for years.  Even more than that, it turns out that not only has this plan been brewing, but Salt is the key.  Orlov reveals to her that she is a Russian plant that needs to get things in motion.  Upon hearing this the CIA decides they have to investigate.  This sets Salt on a run away from the CIA and out to stop this particular plan.  There are times when you'll question just who Salt is working for in the midst of the plot.  Is she really working for the Russians or is she working for the CIA?

This is where the absurdity with the story comes in.  There are plotholes abound throughout the entire script.  They are everywhere.  There are moments you're wondering how Salt knows certain things.  You'll find characters who you don't know if they're the good guys or the bad guys... and for how long they're the good guys and bad guys.  Especially in the second half of the film where you get the feeling the screenwriters started making it up as they went along... but didn't bother to go back and figure out if it makes sense.  It's not a joke, SALT's story is really that unrealistically left open.  Those reading this can scream about a sequel coming (the movie leaves so much open for it) but it can't save the fact that Salt really does have a lot of holes scattered throughout its story.  By the time you leave you'll be asking yourself questions and trying to make sense of some of the things that happened. 

There are actually certain plot points that the movie hammers in and gives you subtle hints about, at least.  For some of the most important plot points.  Because they're handled in flashbacks to help understand things.  Such as why Salt's husband is actually important to the plot.  On the other hand, there are many moments of SALT that have holes so big you could fly a 747 through them.  The only reason you're really left guessing or surprised at anything that happens in Salt, is because so much of it feels like it came out of nowhere.  So much of what happens in the movie comes off in a spur the moment fashion.  In short, there are many moments that SALT is quite literally trying to tell you that you're watching an action/thriller and that's it isn't really meant to be taken seriously.  In a moment where Salt walks away from a car crash she caused... with everyone knowing who she is... and she just walks away.  It was hard not to laugh at this... and it was the moment that hit home: This movie isn't taking itself seriously, why should I? 

And yet that's what made it more enjoyable in the end.  The movie is a thriller through and through but it really DOESN'T take itself too seriously.  There's so much stuff that happens that so much of what Salt accomplishes through the film is either by absurd luck or her somehow having knowledge she couldn't possibly have or by very big coincidences that just happen to fall into place.  The film doesn't foreshadow some moments enough for you to even catch on that Salt knows something.  We're just supposed to sit back and know that she does.  This is why it has some surprises... they really are surprises. 

So no, the story isn't something that you'd want to see SALT for.  It throws in far too much and leaves too many questions unanswered.  SALT might've done best to borrow more from the Bourne movies than just how to stage an action scene.  The Bourne movies happened to work out because there was more than just action to the thrill.  It's more story driven moments actually have coherence.  And that's primarily what SALT is missing.  Coherence.  When coming out of the movie you might be scratching your head with several questions abound.

It seems like I should've given the film a lower rating than I did in that case.  And perhaps if the movie had sat there begging me to take it seriously I would've.  But it didn't... so I didn't.  The story is nothing special.  But the action is. 

Some of the best moments in SALT actually are the action sequences.  And yes, it's actually good enough to distract from the shortcomings in the story.  Some moments are just all around fun.  It's hard not to be taken for a ride.  You're watching a thriller and the movie is hell bent on making sure you understand that it is a thriller.  There are chases on foot and in cars.  You're watching Salt jump from trucks, and watching set up intricate, absurd, over-the-top plans to do simple things.  And you're watching her do things like kick off a wall to kick someone in the head even though it makes no sense to do so whatsoever.  This is territory that comes with a Thriller.  The genre has LIVED off of this kind of cheesy, over-the-top action.  As I said, SALT isn't asking you to take it seriously... so why should you? 

If the action were less appealing and less fun SALT might've been nothing short of a disaster.  The point is that there's enough action here to keep you entertained.  Because the story sure as hell isn't going to do it for you.  If there's one thing you can definitely take from SALT it's that the main heroine knows how to kick outrageous amounts of ass.  The one inkling of actual humanity that the movie has is that the heroine doesn't just dish it out... she can take it too.  The days of chivalry in cinema are definitely dead with this one.  Salt gets shot, beaten and battered.  In this regard SALT deserves to be given more credit than most action/thrillers that insist their main character shouldn't be hit by a stray bullet or (heaven forbid) bleed.

Most of the other aspects about SALT are pretty typical of a thriller.  There's not much to the characters.  You get some backstory on Salt but that's about it.  These come in flashbacks, mostly, but aside from that the other characters have a name and a face and nothing more.  We can deal with that.  We can also deal with the actors being devoid of emotion.  And most of them are.  In terms of action movies I've never expected much from the actors in them and I'm not about to start just because some of them happen to do it well.  When the actors actually try they end up overdoing it.  Other times, it's not like the characters have a moment to express emotion.  This is especially true of Jolie who wears the same expression for almost the entire film.  She's a hardened CIA agent.  She's not supposed to have feelings anymore, I suppose.  It gives Jolie another stitch in her belt for number of successful films she's been in (should SALT turn out to be a box office success) but it doesn't do anything to broaden her range as an actress.

In a nutshell, SALT is a fun movie if you're the type that likes action and likes to have fun.  Because if you're willing to disregard the story SALT really IS fun.  If this is what they were going for then my hat goes off to them.  On the other hand, it's really REALLY hard to forgive the shoddy script.  SALT isn't really a bad movie, it's just an incoherent one.  It's intentionally left open at the end because there are hopes for a sequel.  And if there is a sequel there's a chance to fill in the holes that SALT leaves open, but we can't exactly count on that, unless several people are willing to spend money to see it at the box office.  In terms of action and fun the payoff is worth it, but there are plenty who aren't exactly going to want to put down that kind of money to get a pretty bullet ridden screenplay.

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August 20, 2010
Exceptional review!!! I just finished watching this movie and although I agree with you on all your points I absolutely loved this film! It is way too much fun too ignore and is possibly one of the best action thrillers I have seen in years. Excellent work.
July 28, 2010
Great review, Sean! I definitely want to see this eventually, just not sure if I'll see it in theaters. By the way, I totally love all the play on words from the title, "Salt" ;) Thanks for sharing!
July 28, 2010
Wow Sean - wonderful review!! It sounds like the plot itself would have been good; it sounds intelligent, but a shame it had so many holes. I had no plans to watch this one anyway, but your great review convinced me even more it would not be my kind of movie. I guess I need more than action to enjoy a movie; it has to make more sense to me without all the plot holes. Excellent review - I enjoyed reading it!!
July 28, 2010
Yeah.  It's totally not for everyone.  I'm glad the review could help. 
July 25, 2010
wow...I am impressed. You broke this down more thoroughly than I did. This was fun, plot and script needed a lot of work but I can live with it. Thanks!
July 25, 2010
Normally the action doesn't usually save a terrible script for me (I still have nightmares in which I'm sitting in a movie theater watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen... sure the initial trauma is over, but the scars have yet to fade), but there were action moments in SALT that were just so much fun I was able to sit back and not care so much.  I was never bored and it was over before it got monotonous.
July 25, 2010
True. It also helped that Jolie was convincing in her role. The character wasn't as deep as I hoped but it was alright for a cartoonish female who can kick butt. TROTF was overlong, over-directed and still stands us one of biggest insults to a franchise ever filmed.
July 28, 2010
Gee - I need to find your reviews and takes on the 2nd Transformers; I did not like it half as much as the original, but it sounds like I may have missed something huge since it made such a bad impression on you.
July 28, 2010
here you are, Brenda, this is my review on Transformers 2 and this is Sean's. Click on the links and enjoy!
More Salt (movie) reviews
review by . July 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Oh my, you wouldn’t believe how many times we’ve seen the set up for the new movie starring Angelina Jolie “SALT”. Quite frankly, I wasn't expecting much from this action-thriller by Philip Noyce (Patriot Games); the movie does rely on a very standard set up but has loads of action sequences. “Salt” isn’t awesome, but if you are looking for a straight-forward action-thriller, then it does somewhat deliver as an action movie. Plus, it is always fun to …
review by . May 09, 2011
   As I sat with my girlfriend on her futon, absently thumbing through netflix's idea of what movies I would like, I came upon "Salt," starring Angelina Jolie.  Now we did not immediately decide our pick, as it stood along such titles as "Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus," and "The Suite Life Movie," but - being in a cloak and dagger kind of mood - we opted for the spy/action flick.      We open with Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) being …
review by . May 08, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
There are some movies that are so bad that they are good (Wanted - another Jolie movie) and there are some movies that even with a huge budget are just plain awful. This movie falls in the latter category. Not only was this movie an insult to the viewer's intelligence but it was mostly boring throughout.    Evelyn Salt may have been recruited early on by the Russians as a Russian mysteriously shows up at CIA headquarters and tells Evelyn in front of CIA witnesses that she was …
review by . December 15, 2010
From Russian spies to sweetly epic sequences Salt is a true spy movie that under the right circumstances could do a real punch in Inception's box office take. The plot can be somewhat predictable at times but like this year's earlier film From Paris with Love it had some distinct moments of absolute badassery. Angelina Jolie plays Evaline Salt a lead interrogator for a branch of the CIA. The movie begins with Salt being beaten in a North Korean prison where she is being thought as a spy, …
review by . February 01, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****     "Salt" is the kind of film that I only pondered because (1.) spy films can be pretty fun to watch, and (2.) the critical reception was mixed (Roger Ebert wrote a very favorable review giving the film four stars, while another favorite critic of mine, Roger Moore, was much less favorable). I wanted to like "Salt", I really did. But upon seeing the thing, I have nothing to say about it beyond the fact that it's a big fat piece of mediocrity. Perhaps I lied; I …
review by . July 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Needed a pinch more.
The tagline for SALT poses the question, “Who is Salt?” and after sitting through the incredibly fast-paced spy thriller, I can honestly say that I have no idea who this Salt chick is really.  I can say that the movie that is named for her is riddled with plot holes but when the heroine is as hot and adept at avoiding those holes as Angelina Jolie is, I don’t think it really matters.   When I see a Jolie action film, I’m not looking for anything particularly …
review by . August 31, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
3 1/2 Stars:
Action thrillers have always had a special place in the hearts of esteemed moviegoers of all ages they share not only the joys of having something blowing up in your face   every ten to 40 minutes but they also give you great and memorable action sequences and characters. Such as "Die Hard"(1988), "Minority Report"(2002), "Mission: Impossible"(1996)," Mission: Impossible III"(2006), "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark "(1982),  …
review by . July 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Isn't it amazing how we play the entertainment card to make excuses for preposterous films? We as audiences will buy into a whole host of cinematic flaws as long as there are sights and sounds to keep us amused, and in all honesty, I don't know whether or not I mean that as a criticism. Maybe it's just what is. "Salt," like so many summer action movies before it, is a fun thrill-a-minute stunt caper, and yet it possesses not a single shred of plausibility. It's one of those movies that gives you …
review by . July 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
It was a decent manifestation (copy) of a great book, The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox by Dept of Defense insider Anthony R Howard. I guess movies never live up to the hype of books, but SALT just didn't do this book justice. The book went deeper into the background and technology. Book kept me on the edge of my seat. This was a good movie, but the book was exhilarating. A bit of the plot was foreseeable, however I thought Jolie really sold her role. Foremost, the marketing team did a great job …
Quick Tip by . January 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Loads of action and good actors making it a really entertaining movie...but the ending....yuck i didnt like it
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this movie


Salt is a 2010 American action thriller film directed by Phillip Noyce, written by Kurt Wimmer and Brian Helgeland, and starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, accused of being a KGB sleeper agent, on the run to try to clear her name. While Tom Cruise was initially secured for the lead, he was unable to commit to the role because of commitments to other projects, and the script was ultimately rewritten for Jolie.

Filming took place on location in Washington, DC and New York City between March and June 2009. Jolie was taken to the hospital after suffering a head injury on set but was released the same day where filming resumed. The film will have a panel at the San Diego Comic-Con on July 22 and will be released in North America on July 23, 2010, and August 20, 2010, in the United Kingdom.
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Director: Phillip Noyce
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 23 July 2010 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Kurt Wimmer
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures
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