Tuesday 24 August 2010

A Salt on Precinct Jolie

Salt 2010 US
Directed by Philip Noyce
Screening at cinemas now

There will be some slight spoilers here... you are duly cautioned.

There’s not a lot really that I can say about Salt of any consequence. It’s a fairly decently made, mostly entertaining action thriller which checks all the right boxes and cynically sets itself up for a sequel which I suspect will never be made... but don’t go in expecting anything more than that.

I’ve heard it bandied about that Salt is, perhaps, to be considered an intelligent action thriller. Is it? Well no, really it’s just got a halfway decent script and the lines are spoken with some conviction... and the action sequences, which take up most of the running time, are fastly edited but not too fast, thankfully, that you can’t make out what’s going on...

Let’s put it this way... it’s not unintelligent... it’s just not nearly as smart as it’s trying to be. All the twists and turns in this movie are amply telegraphed long before they are “revealed” to the audience. The identity of Salt herself for example and the, is she or isn’t she a Russian spy, thing. The movie tries to have it’s cake and eat it here by making her both who has defected her allegiance to the US government through the love of her husband (played by the King Kong Nazi from Inglourious Basterds). The director does his absolute best to make you think that Salt is “the bad assassin gal” but due to the sense of morality in the film they telegraph her intentions throughout by having her wound or incapacitate any of her fellow countrymen rather than kill them because, you know, she’s really working for the good old US.

Similarly, you’ll probably figure out who the real villain of the piece long before the movie tries to throw any suspicion on Salt herself. If you are in any doubt as to the identity of the “real” mole in the CIA is before you actually see him go into action then... well you’ve obviously been happily mollified by the balletic and energetically edited action sequences with which the film is laced.

No matter. The acting performances are superb and are exactly what you’d expect from such top-notch performers as Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor and the aforementioned August Diehl... although to be fair, Ejiofor and Diehl are completely wasted and it was a bit embarrassing having a final one-on-one scene between Jolie and Ejiofor where Ejiofor’s character acted at complete odds with the character as you’ve seen him in the rest of the movie. His decision really doesn’t make sense but then again, neither does the rush ending. All Jolie’s character has to say is... “Hey, don’t take my word for it... just ask the president when he regains consciousness... he’ll tell you who it was”... but the film doesn’t seem to want to hang around for long enough to tie up all the loose ends.

I think my main criticism of the film is that it’s definitely trying to hit the same, projected, audience pleasing hotspots as the remake of The Bourne Identity. Again, it’s a bit embarrassing but you can almost see the accountants saying... okay, we want a scene where Jolie escapes from a building where everyone is after her... then we want a scene where she’s inching herself around a ledge on a high up building. Oh, and a scene where she changes her appearance please. Ooh... and can we have that bit where Matt Damon jumps in the water at the end of The Bourne Ultimatum in it please. Oooh... and how about starting the movie off with the post-credits sequence from Die Another Day (one of the worst Bond films ever made) but replace tortured up Brosnan with tortured up Jolie and then swap her back like in that movie. And all the while, we want a score which sounds exactly like John Powell’s Bourne scores pumping away in the background please... oh, but don’t get John Powell ‘cause he’s getting pricey... just temp track it with his stuff and then get James Newton Howard on it. He can copy anyone’s style.

My last paragraph says it all I think... I’d have sworn that the score was by John Powell in Bourne mode and nearly jumped out my seat when James Newton Howard’s name came up. Not his fault though... I expect it was heavily suggested to him that he sound like that and I suspect this may be yet another modern day crime against filmanity... temptrackitus.

All in all though, Salt was a fun ride at the cinema for those welcome times when you feel you can switch your brain off and just let the shadows and light wash over you. If you like convincingly delivered lines but with loads of foot chases, gun battles, explosions and stabbings then you might like to give this film a try... Salt is Peppered with sequences like these!

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