Everyone seems a bit serious for an adoption screening …

Theatrical Release Date: 07/23/2010
Director: Phillip Noyce
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski, August Diehl

“Who is Salt?” That marketing angle has been use to promote Angelina Jolie’s latest “action-packed” summer “blockbuster”, “Salt”. Sorry for all the quotation marks but it seemed the best way to highlight sarcasm … since this isn’t a podcast where my tone of voice can more clearly come through.

In the film, Jolie plays a CIA agent. A supposed Russian defector waltzes into the CIA offices in Washington D.C. and implicates her in a plot to assassinate a political figure. Her boss (Liev Schriber) and a counter-intelligence agent (Chiwetel Ejiofor) then must try and track her down, ascertaining her involvement in the conspiracy along the way. Is she a double agent? A triple agent? A sleeper agent? A UN Ambassador? Wait …

In any case, films of this genre must simply offer action along with (hopefully) a clever and intelligent script. No one expects Shakespeare, so the bar is set a little lower – the expectations are different. From that perspective, director Phillip Noyce has delivered a middle of the road example for audiences to sit idly through.

And although I understand that this would never work for financing reasons, the film could have become something a bit more interesting if Schrieber and Jolie had switched roles. We’ve all seen Angelina play this character time and time again (“Tomb Raider”, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith“, “Wanted“); With “Salt”, it’s essentially just a continuation of those roles. The same goes for Schrieber, he’s apparently cornering the market on shady characters in spy films and while he’s always done a good job, it’s just becoming far too predictable and repetitive. Ejiofor also falls into this trap, as the official forced at some point to make a judgment call that goes against the rules he so desperately clings to.

In the end, what Noyce and his team have presented is a serviceable espionage film, albeit frustratingly so. It’s fun to revisit Cold War issues but any fan of the genre will see each “twist” coming a few miles away and the action is either too unbelievable, shot too close up, average or a combination of all three. If you just need an escape, “Salt” will provide that comfortable feeling of familiarity and so I’m giving it a 3 out of 5. You’re far better off re-watching any of the Bourne films but if it gets too warm and you don’t have A/C, I can understand the need to duck into a theater for a few hours (assuming you’ve already seen “Inception“, “Despicable Me” and “Winter’s Bone“).