Combustible Celluloid
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With: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski, August Diehl, Daniel Pearce, Hunt Block, Andre Braugher, Olek Krupa, Cassidy Hinkle, Corey Stoll, Zoe Lister Jones
Written by: Kurt Wimmer
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action
Running Time: 100
Date: 07/19/2010

Salt (2010)

2 Stars (out of 4)

'Salt' without Pep

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Salt could have been a pretty good brain-dead summer popcorn thriller, but director Phillip Noyce (The Bone Collector, Rabbit-Proof Fence) and star Angelina Jolie lend it too much weight without providing any depth. Writer Kurt Wimmer's ridiculous plots can sometimes make good "B" movies, such as Wimmer's own Ultraviolet (2006), but to take his material seriously is fatal, as in last year's dud Law Abiding Citizen.

CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is just about to enjoy an anniversary dinner with her husband (August Diehl) when a Russian defector turns up and calmly claims that she's a Russian spy. She escapes, claiming to be looking for her now-missing husband, with agents Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) hot on her trail. Appearing like a Russian spy, but sometimes acting like an American agent, she must remain in hiding. And at the same time, she must risk getting close to some of the world's most powerful leaders and potentially starting another world war to achieve her mysterious goals.

Some flashbacks try to enhance the characters and build their relationships, but they feel like too little, too late. Of course, it's possible to make a great movie out of a total cipher of a character, but Salt seems to have gone halfway toward building a character and stopped dead.

Moreover, the movie tries to throw in some twists and surprises, but they're not terribly well executed and not very surprising. The action is routine and uninspiring -- Noyce employs the usual, lazy shaky-cam and choppy editing -- and the characters have no real depth. In other words, there's not much at stake, and what's left isn't really that much fun. Only Jolie's sharp onscreen ferocity helps to pass the time in an interesting way, but even she feels a bit bored and/or stranded by the lack of material and imagination.

Sony sent me the theatrical cut on a DVD, though there is an extended cut available on both DVD and Blu-Ray. My disc comes with trailers, an 8-minute featurette about Jolie as action hero, another short behind-the-scenes featurette, a 30-minute radio interview with director Noyce conducted by critic Elvis Mitchell, and a commentary track by Noyce.

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