Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The BC Review: Salt

I'm sorry to say that after several months of consistent (and certainly, persistent) media hyping, I was sadly disappointed in the latest addition to the spy-family flicks; Salt.

To be sure, the plot line is intriguing... American CIA officer, blond hair, blue-eyed, Evelyn Salt, is surprised by an alleged Russian defector's arrival and subsequent accusation that she is a Russian spy.

Yes, you read that correctly. Salt hijacks us; bringing us kicking and screaming back to what can largely be considered, an easier, less confusing time - The United States vs. Russia. To the film's detriment, the old adage that it is the democratic powerhouse vs. the red communists, is almost laughable. Of course as eloquently stated in one of my all-time favorite spy thrillers, Sneakers, we all know "They still spy on us, we still spy on them", but must we revert to this premise? Surely, in this day in age, there are more intriguing stories to pen?

Despite taking us on one thrilling action scene after another (really, it is one after another, after another to the point of exhaustion), the film fails to really deliver. For many reasons, but most poignant is its lack of humanity. All of the characters are stiff to the point of robotic. This is particularly apparent when compared to predecessors such as the Bourne Identity (even a trained assassin with amnesia expresses a nominal amount of emotion).

This is especially true with our supposed "heroine". Salt is gruff, to the point of grating. So much so, that it is impossible to believe she would exist in reality, let alone maintain a functioning marriage (being some one's wife is intended to lend credibility to her cover story). Jolie's attempt to portray a strong, intelligent woman comes off as a robotic (yes, I'm using this descriptor once again) imitation of what a strong, intelligent woman, would look and act like. And it is just that; an appalling imitation.

Despite her efforts (and admitted, successes) in transcending so-called "traditional" gender roles; Angelina Jolie falls victim once again to, well, her own fame and fortune. That is, Angelina has become such a force in Hollywood and the world at large (see her ongoing humanitarian efforts across the globe) that it is nearly impossible to see her in any acting role and get past the fact that we are watching Angelina and instead be able to focus on the character she is portraying. Maybe it is her larger-than-life lips? Or just her classically beautiful face? In either case, Evelyn Salt would have fared better played by a lesser-known femme fatal.

The supporting characters, played by Liev Schrieber and Chiwetel Ejiofer, contribute some redeeming qualities. Schrieber plays a tough-as-nails officer with a passion for the mission (and really little else), while Ejiofer gives us a nice portrayal of humanity in the midst of nearly robotic colleagues.

As if this interminably drawn up flick was not enough, the "ending" (if you can really call it that) leaves us on a cliff-hanger with Salt running through the woods of Northern Virginia. Indeed, a Salt 2 is more than an idea; it's a promise.

Salt leaves much to be desired, but for fans of the espionage drama it will acquire at the very least, a luke-warm reception. However, in this reviewer's opinion, you might be better off renting one of several markedly better flicks to include, Spy Game, Breach, and Mission Impossible (the 1st installment).

The BC Review Rating: C-