Wimmer lays the groundwork early in the film for what will happen later so that when new revelations are uncovered there is no feeling of having been cheated.
Director Phillip Noyce has been making movies like Salt for the last two decades so it’s no surprise that his newest espionage thriller is decently executed and, on the whole, a satisfying piece of summer entertainment. The real joy of the movie is the script written by Kurt Wimmer, who also wrote Law Abiding Citizen and The Recruit. For Salt, Wimmer has crafted a very intelligent script with several impressive twists that elevate the movie to a level well above most summer action movies.
Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is a CIA officer who we learn very quickly is incredibly loyal to the United States and the secrecy of her position. On the night of Salt’s wedding anniversary, a Russian defector (Daniel Olbrychski) arrives at the CIA saying he has important information to share. During an interview, he tells her that someone named Evelyn Salt is a spy who plans on killing the Russian president. Salt is immediately secured in an interrogation room.
Thinking she and her husband are in danger, Salt goes on the run from the CIA, which looks very suspicious to her friend and boss, Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) and counter-intelligence officer Agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Salt leads Winter, Peabody and a seemingly endless number of police on a high speed chase through Washington, D.C. because she fears her husband has been targeted by the Russians as well.
The movie keeps the audience guessing for most of the film through several twists that are well-planned and work effectively. Wimmer lays the groundwork early in the film for what will happen later so that when new revelations are uncovered there is no feeling of having been cheated. Wimmer is a very talented and smart writer and understands what audiences expect to see so he takes his story in an entirely different direction.
As was mentioned before, Noyce has made his career on movies such as Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Quiet American, so Salt is definitely well-worn territory for the director. While he hasn’t done anything really wrong, per se, he also hasn’t done much to support Wimmer’s engaging script. There is nothing new in terms of style or tone so the movie feels exactly how a summer action movie is expected to feel. Noyce does seem to have gained a predilection for asinine action sequences that are less entertaining and more groan-inducing. The director has loaded the movie down with stunts that are too absurd to take seriously which, again, detracts from fully enjoying the movie.
Jolie turns in a rather impressive performance as Evelyn Salt. Firstly, she performed the majority of her own stunts, which is notable in itself because of the additional weight it gives to her on screen appearance. Also, Jolie creates a complex character that the audience is never quite sure if they should trust or not—this is a sign of a very talented actor. Salt was actually supposed to be filmed several years ago and star Tom Cruise as a male version of the main character. After the bottom fell through, Wimmer re-wrote the script for a female lead and Jolie was cast.
Schreiber is given little to do as Winter except to look upset through most of the movie. It isn’t clear if his on-again, off-again Southern twang was a deliberate choice or just laziness, but it is rather distracting and, at times, humorous. Ejiofor is given even less depth or usefulness which is a disappointment as he is one of the most consistently impressive actors working today.
Salt isn’t the best movie to come out this summer, but it isn’t the worst by far. It’s a fun action movie that makes you think a little more than most of the mindless entertainment that is in theaters right now. | Matthew F. Newlin