MacGuffin Film Review – Salt

Salt – A Review

Salt (2010), the latest summer blockbuster starring Angelina Jolie, is an insulting excuse for an action film.  The movie defies any kind of logic, suspense, emotion, or excitement, I actually felt anger coming out of the theater.  While watching it, I tried to find some redeemable element to keep me from walking out in the middle of the movie, and the only thing I could come up with was that I had already spent my money.  I was so surprised at the lack of quality here, being that there was a ton of talent involved, especially amongst the lead actors.  However, as good as everyone here has been in previous films, there was no way they could’ve saved this film.  This will go down as one of the worst movies of the year.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD (But honestly, you should keep reading and save yourself from having to watch this movie)

Jolie stars as Evelyn Salt, a top CIA officer.  Near the end of their day, Salt and her partner Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) are notified that a Russian speaking man has come to their unit claiming to have information vital to national security.  Salt, being the best interrogator/fighter/undercover agent/weapons and explosives expert that the U.T. has ever produced, is sent in to question him.  After a conversation where the Russian painfully explains the entire history of the Cold War, he finally says something of importance: Salt is a Russian spy sent to assassinate…the Russian President.  Yes, that’s right, a Russian spy sent to infiltrate the United States to kill the Russian President.  Salt vehemently denies the allegations (obviously), but her coworkers don’t believe her.  To prove her innocence, what does Salt do?  She makes a home-made rocket launcher, blows her way out of the CIA building, and leads the CIA on a city-wide chase leaving a path of destruction behind her.  Wouldn’t you do that if you knew you were innocent?

What follows is an incomprehensible espionage story involving secret agents, double identities, triple identities, Russian super soldiers, North Korean torture practices, and spiders.  There was not one thing in this movie that was entertaining: the action was unexciting and unbelievable.  How does a person jump from an elevated bridge, land on a truck, jump on to another truck, highjack a motorcycle, while being shot at the exact same time, and not have a single scratch on them?  How does a person survive a major car crash, not get hurt, and walk away without anyone even noticing?  How can a single person take down an entire squad of highly trained professionals as if they were nothing?  How does a person break in to a White House security bunker by simply shooting through a wall?  I’m all about suspending my level of disbelief, but they took it over the limit here.

The script felt half-baked.  The dialogue was either silly or unnecessary, and none of the characters had any notion of common sense.  The Russian back-story was not convincing, and their motivation and execution to start World War III by killing one of their own people was ludicrous.  The way the writers added Salt’s romantic relationship with her husband (Mike Krause) in flashback sequences felt tacked on, and the pacing of the film did not stop for a second to explain what was happening.  Identities were shifted, then shifted again, characters that played a pivotal role early in the film disappear in the second half, then come back near the end to remind us that they are still a part of the movie, and the twists come randomly and incoherently.  I think one of the points that the film wanted to express was that every single character was questionable, but when the people you’re supposed to root for turn out to be bad guys, and the good guys are as dumb as rocks, you end up hating everybody.  Finally, at the very end of the movie, the conversation between Salt and FBI agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) was awful, a painful punctuation to a terrible movie.

Of all the bad elements of the film, the worst is Salt herself.  I like Angelina Jolie, I think she’s a very good actress, and has given many good performances in other movies, but here she works with a character that I simply had no sympathy for.  First, she starts out as an innocent victim, then in a twist, she literally becomes the bad guy, and then in another twist, they ask us to believe she is the good guy again.  If she is such an innocent person, why does she go around acting exactly how she is accused of being, even when no one else is around to see her?  If she’s such a good guy, why does she painfully beat up and electrocute the very people she’s trying to convince?  There’s even a moment here where she takes a gun, shoots through a security guard and hits another person.  Are these the actions of someone trying to prove their innocence?  No, it’s the actions of a character trying to manipulate the audience to believing she’s something she is not.  At the end of the film I felt that my allegiance to the character was jerked around and messed with.  As an action character, Salt is part robot and part kung fu master.  Why, oh why, do characters in mediocre action movies always seem like they are unstoppable forces?  They run through obstacles without ever breaking a sweat.  Enemies can unload an entire magazine of bullets at them and miss every time, yet the character can fire one shot and hit them right where it counts?  All of the secret agents in the film should’ve just dropped their weapons and let Salt do what she needed to get done, at least that way the film would’ve ended faster, and there would’ve been less people getting hurt.

It’s not smart enough to be satire, it’s not goofy enough to be a guilty pleasure, it’s not funny enough to be a comedy, it’s not enough of anything to be anything.  Salt is a major letdown for all those involved, what could’ve been a good movie about someone proving their innocence turned out to be an espionage film that is horrible beyond belief.  Angelina Jolie was in good movies before, and will be in good movies again, but here she took a project that I can only imagine was for a paycheck.  At the end of it, the filmmakers hint at the possibility of a sequel, but I pray that they do not make it, and spare movie-going audiences the torture of revisiting this story.

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