D: Phillip Noyce. DP: Robert Elswit. W: Kurt Wimmer. Starring: Angelina Jolie/Liev Schreiber/Chiwetel Ejiofor/Daniel Olbrychski/August Diehl/Hunt Block.
Originally written for a male lead (and turned down by Tom Cruise), Salt will hook most audiences into theaters with its trailer. Who is this woman? Is she a Russian spy? Or an American C.I.A. agent? Is she who she says she is? Sadly, regrettably, disappointingly the preview far outshines the feature.
Right off the bat Wimmer’s script immediately aligns the audience with Special Agent Evelyn Salt. Captured, tortured, and beaten, Salt returns to her husband (Diehl) and position after attempting to gain information through her work with the C.I.A. Not only a profession her husband knows nothing of, but one that will ultimately be revealed to have defined her and Russia’s future.
Yet despite Wimmer’s story leaving little to the imagination as most audiences will be able to guess his protagonist’s next move, he has lucked out with Jolie’s handling of Salt. The center of the movie, Jolie stands firm, strong and is able to maintain that this film and her spy antics are some credible and also, believable. There is clearly no other woman in Hollywood who can carry weapons, be a weapon and destroy weapons all at the same time. And although Jolie cannot save Salt she at least makes the time roll by.
I specifically want to address the fact that there is not a sex scene in Salt. Although present or suggested in the trailer, Jolie’s character’s motivation remains on her targets (don’t worry, I won’t reveal anything). And she neither uses or seduces anyone with her sexuality or ‘womanliness’ to destroy or gain access to these targets, which could be due to the script originally written for a male lead. However, since sex was suggested in the trailer a scene or two could have been removed once the project was shot with a female lead. I note this exclusion as very often the female spy is written and symbolizes a manifestation of female aggression. This aggression, in popular media, is constantly sexualized. Not only making the female body in itself a weapon, but also coding sexual aggression as somehow lethal and/or manipulative. So I applaud Salt for not falling into this trap, so easily done with such a stunning and often sexualized Jolie.
Yet despite Jolie, the film is never truly able to get its feet under it to even run at a steady pace. Salt‘s plot runs into tangents, leaving most other characters far too under developed. The film is clearly conscious of this as it attempts to develop Jolie’s husband through memory flashbacks that appear awkwardly at random. Even poor Liev Schriever does his best but cannot salvage a role too thin and thrown away for his talent and weight. But, hey, don’t fret, The Expendables just came out, that is surely to give anyone their action fix for quite some time.