Here I am again dabbling in a genre that is notoriously extreme in its quality. The action/thriller (particularly ones dealing with spies) tend to either be awesome or awful. "Salt" has the pleasure in residing in the latter category. Perhaps its my fault for renting the PG-13 theatrical edition instead of the unrated one, but this little doozy turned out to be far too unrealistic to be taken seriously and far too serious to be taken unrealistically. An omen that would have worked for a film in 1984, but fails to do it justice in 2010.
Evelyn Salt (Jolie) seems to have the right balance in life. She has a loving husband that would give anything for her, a nice apartment, a dog, and of course a stable job. Stable as in she works for the CIA in the Russian division. When a mysterious Russian shows up claiming that Salt is a sleeper Russian spy, she finds herself on the run from her own people including best friend and partner Winter (Schreiber). Now she has very little time to clear her name and find out who's behind it all...or is she just playing games with everyone?
My initial reaction to "Salt" was one of somewhat dissatisfaction. With no real protagonist or antagonist to really follow (we are meant to question her loyalties throughout) we are left just floating in a sort of grey area drifting in a sea of uncertainty on what to believe. This of course is somewhat the purpose of the film as it twists and turns and throws all kinds of "who's a sleeper Russian agent?" bullshit at its audience. What it doesn't do is effectively get the audience to follow it for any sort of time to actually make a decision on its roles before it twists again. We have all kinds of hidden threats and seemingly unmotivated actions from characters that seem completely irrelevant when one can't give a rat's pajamas about any of them. By the end of the film, I didn't care who or who wasn't working for the US or the Russians as long as somebody got shot (and ironically I was hoping Salt would be the next one - now wouldn't that be a twist!). By the end, it outsmarted itself into a corner of sheer ridiculousness that I just assumed to give up on making sense of its plot and rooting for death scenes.
Which brings about the next problem with "Salt". The action sequences. What action sequences? I don't know. I think I missed them. It had its moments, Salt's jail break in the cop car comes to mind, but overall it seemed to be littered with just a whole lot of chasing. Until the final act, for which by the grace of God it decided to focus on this instead of making sense of its plot, the action picks up but it was a very long hour and a half to get there and definitely not worth it. So what we have a few intense moments of espionage? I can get that in "Mission: Impossible III" but with a shit ton more charm and a whole lot more awesomeness.
"Salt" just tries so damn hard to be so damn smart that it forgot that contained the political/espionage plot of a straight to DVD Steven Segal flick and lacked the action to float itself on its own absurdity. This film couldn't decide if it wanted to make a statement about current states of Russian/US standings or if it wanted to entertain and ending up doing neither. Either embrace the bad or leave it out. "Salt" didn't do either.
BONUS RANT: I guess their are two very different cuts available of this film with two very different endings. I'm almost curious to see these just because this one seemed like it wanted to play it very safe with how it wrapped it all up. Then again, I would have to buy this movie and perhaps re-watch it. After weighing the possibilities I'm just going to skip out. Not worth the effort.
Written By Matt Reifschneider