You may have noticed that it took me a long time to get to this one.
It may very well be on its way out of theaters by the time you read
this. I really didn’t care enough about this movie to go see it, until I
review. Against what I’m sure was the review’s intention, I just
had to go see what had prompted this concise and implicitly venomous
Then I sat down to the theater and knew almost instantly that I
wasn’t going to like it.
Right from the start, the writing in this movie is atrocious.
Suspending disbelief is made impossible by all the various moronic plot
holes and I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single line of
dialogue is totally laughable. The attempts at exposition are perhaps
even worse, told through conveniently-timed exposition and more horrible
dialogue. One character actually says of himself that “Germans don’t
joke,” making for an unholy trinity of awkward exposition, unrealistic
speech and idiotic stereotyping.
That line of dialogue was spoken by Mike Krause, the husband to
Angelina Jolie’s eponymous Evelyn Salt. For the record, here
is a picture of August Diehl, the man who plays Mike. Yeah, that’s
supposed to be the husband to Angelina friggin’ Jolie. It shouldn’t
exactly come as a shock that there’s absolutely zero chemistry between
them. This wrecks havoc on Salt’s characterization, because the
motivations and development of our protagonist revolve entirely around
In fact, Jolie actually has more chemistry with Liev Schreiber, but
this does not save him. Schreiber spends the first half of the movie as
the token one-dimensional character who thinks that our heroine might be
innocent. He’s even worse off in the second half, saddled with buckets
of exposition about implausible story twists that I couldn’t even begin
to care about.
Opposite Schreiber is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays the Homeland
Security heavy who’s out to catch Salt. I really like Ejiofor. Ever
since Serenity, I’ve been eager to see another film make such
good use of his talents (I don’t really count Children of Men,
because he was more of a background character in that one). And I’m
gonna have to keep waiting. Ejiofor is given absolutely nothing to work
with here, serving only as an obstacle who never poses any real threat
to Salt. Moreover, the only time when he really gets out to do some
action is when he shoots at Salt, who is riding on top of a fuel truck
at the time.
That’s right: Ejiofor’s character shoots at a gas truck. A guy shoots
at a gas truck in this movie. I don’t know what’s more stupid: That a
trained and high-ranking Homeland Security officer could ever plausibly
be dumb enough to discharge his weapon anywhere near a gas truck or that
the truck in question didn’t go ahead and blow up.
Additionally, in the movie’s very first big action scene, Salt goes
from a locked and monitored interrogation room to an elevator.
Offscreen. And how she gets from point A to point B is never explained.
If the movie didn’t lose me before, it sure as hell lost me then.
The fight choreography is totally uninspired and the camera work does
absolutely nothing to make it compelling. All that’s left to carry any
emotional weight is the score, which compensates for the lousy visuals
and bad writing by being as loud and bombastic as it can be at all
times. It does a lot more harm than good.
Then there’s the star of this movie, Angelina Jolie. I almost felt
sorry for her during the film, because she’s so obviously past her
prime. The makeup crew didn’t even bother covering her age lines through
most of this movie and the lame fight choreography suggested that she
might be getting too old for the more fast-paced fighting that’s in
vogue right now. But most damning of all is the nature of the role she
took. It’s not easy to keep an audience invested in a character whose
past is subject to revision and whose motivations are entirely unknown,
but the entire movie hinged on it. Salt needed an actress who could
always keep her engaging and mysterious simultaneously. You’d think
Jolie could’ve handled that. She couldn’t. Or maybe she just didn’t.
However, I will grant one thing to Salt: The pacing. This film
moved along at a very brisk clip, only lagging during a few brief and
well-placed flashback sequences. The narrative is very efficient at
getting us through the 100-minute running time, though that only serves
to hustle us toward the godawful third act.
The climax of this movie contains a character reveal that takes this
movie from implausible to incomprehensible. Even if there was some way
to sort through all the mumbo-jumbo to show how it all makes sense (I
doubt there is), these characters are so unsympathetic that I can’t
imagine anyone giving enough of a rat’s ass. After that, there’s an
implausible story twist that’s totally inconsequential, as well as a
ridiculous ending that does absolutely nothing except maybe set things
up for a sequel (yeah, good luck with that).
And when all is said and done, what was the point? Was there
something to be said about the USA’s foreign relations policy? Maybe
some commentary about the War on Terror and/or the Patriot Act? A call
for the American and Russian governments to start dismantling their
nukes? No, no and no. There is absolutely nothing in this movie that
warrants a metaphorical or allegorical reading. It’s just a movie about
duplicitous CIA agents. The film gives us characters with shifting,
uncertain allegiances and tries to pass it off as intellectual.
The sad thing is that Salt was not unsalvageable. This cast
and this premise might have been used to make something really special
if the writing and direction weren’t totally incompetent. There’s
definitely room in the film world for a compelling “spy vs. spy”
thriller. This wasn’t it. Instead, it’s a failure on nearly every level.