Saturday, July 24, 2010
GOOD, BUT GO SEE INCEPTION INSTEAD: SALT REVIEW
Angelina Jolie headlines this project as a character that isn't a stretch from her usual sexy but deadly roles (Wanted, Tomb Raider, Mr. and Mrs. Smith). This 2010 film directed by Phillip Noyce seems to exist in a world close to our own reality where Jolie is an actual vulnerable human being. The previous mentioned films all put Jolie in a world of her own, on a pedestal of elite combative prowess. My perception of Salt early on was Jolie working her tail off to narrowly escape capture. Then the action sequences kept unfolding with Jolie coming out on top and unscathed. I began to question the film's integrity to reality as it slipped closer and closer to mindless action.
Granted I understand that movies take place in a constructed reality that characters live in, but with each project the filmmakers ask the viewers to buy into this world. The world can either be different from our reality (V for Vendetta), shown to be similar to ours (Eagle Eye), or be exactly like ours (Bourne Trilogy). This is an important distinction to make so the viewer can decide how to interpret the information being presented to them and whether or not to suspend their disbelief because this is just an action movie. Salt pretends to be serious, but then shows a reality that is too much to believe in. The inability to establish a genre, either a hardcore action movie or a thriller with some action, really hurt Salt in my mind.
Speaking of the Bourne Trilogy, this film tries so hard to be just like those three movies that equated perfection. Unfortunately, when you are trying to mimic perfection you will most often come up short just like Salt does. The action reminds me of the Bourne movies, but not near the quality. Much of the sequences seemed practical early on and were believable for Jolie's character in this movie. But as I stated above, the action kept piling on and getting more ridiculous causing me to appreciate and believe the action less and less.
Even Jolie's character seems to resemble Jason Bourne as she appeared detached from emotion for most of the movie. However, the similarity stops on the surface as Evelyn Salt features no depth compared to Bourne. Ten minutes into the film Jolie was already on the run from the government which brought me to think, "I don't know anything about her, why do I really care what happens?" I at least need something to make me side with Evelyn Salt or root for her and not just watch mindlessly as she thwarts the law. I need a reason to hope she escapes capture besides the fact she is the main character. I need to feel something is at stake and not just watch thoughtless action to be truly enthralled.
The supporting cast features the always great Liev Schrieber and Chiwetwel Ejiofor (Inside Man). These two kept the non-Jolie pieces of this narrative flowing. While none of the characters got any real development besides Evelyn Salt, it was still great to watch these two hunt her down and try to unravel the mystery of her shrouded character. Watching the drive from Ejiofor's character to apprehend Evelyn Salt was what really made this movie for me. Sure it has Jolie escaping every which way, but watching the close pursuit from Ejiofor and his team made the cat and mouse chase exciting from the "cat" end.
The most surprising thing for me walking out of this movie had to be the absence of Jolie being used as a sex object. In almost every movie featuring the 35 year-old actress her sexuality is exploited (minus Changeling). Salt is devoid of any sort of that. This is not necessarily a knock to the filmmakers, but it is Hollywood (where sex is used to sell), and Jolie is one of the finest women on the planet. I was surprised to say the least. As for Jolie's portrayal of her character, she did a convincing job. She seemed like a shell of a character we could care for, but the mediocre character development is not her fault.
Overall, Salt was a movie that can be enjoyed but not truly loved. It has semblance to the Bourne Trilogy, but fails to discover what makes that series really great, attachment to the lead Jason Bourne. The character Evelyn Salt never really develops a personality or creates audience attachment to her cause. We see the reasons to do so and all the action, but I never felt the emotion of it. Instead of trying to impress me with storytelling, the filmmakers kept pounding unbelievable action into my head. While the action was good for the most part, it took up too much time from the narrative when I should have been learning about this complex character.
Salt is worth seeing, but only if you have already seen Inception. I recommend seeing Inception twice or three times before seeing this movie once. Wait for the rental.
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