Movie Review: Take it with a grain of “Salt”

Salt (***)

I wish I could come up with other puns, but this one seems apt for the movie that it mocks. But to be fair, this was a hugely enjoyable movie… it just needs to not be taken seriously. In my mad dash to see everything nominated for an Oscar, I obviously looked at my list and I picked the shortest one. Coming in at an ultra lean 95 minutes (with credits!), this is what an action movie should be. It has no extra fight sequences, no superfluous dialogue, and no unnecessary love plot (well there is one… it just doesn’t come up that much).

Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt… or does she? The premise of the movie is that while CIA Agent Salt is interrogating a Russian man, he reveals that the name of the mole in the CIA is Evelyn Salt. She swears its not her and receives a tepid response from her peers. Instead of waiting out the long slog, she decides to run. So Salt is running from the CIA, even though she’s innocent and the CIA thinks she’s definitely the mole. What follows is a lot of “which side is she really on?” The answer?

Well, that would be a spoiler.

Angelina Jolie was great in this role. She nailed every beat when she needed to and even some she didn’t. The mark of a good performance is when the actor elevates the movie from something exciting but standard to something new and interesting. Jolie does just this by adding actual emotions to scenes where they weren’t necessary to have a cohesive film. Jolie also had to do all of the heavy lifting as she was not getting any help from the somehow equal parts cheesy and boring Liev Schreiber. His attempt in the supportive friend role failed so miserably, that you’d rather have Hannibal Lecter as a co-worker.

Apparently, AMPAS thinks that this movie has excellent sound mixing… and I guess it really did. I don’t really know too much about the sound mix, but this (again) went above and beyond what it needed to. And, at times, the sound mixing almost seemed to play in to part of the story. I dig that nomination. The score was also not completely unoriginal (clarification: that set of negatives means I liked it) and I have to once more praise the editing for giving a quick, lean, and perfectly paced film. This is how action movies should be.

I am going to choose to end this review on a negative note. Why? Because the main conceit of the whole movie was so heinously flawed, I refuse to bury it in the middle of my review. The idea of a secret Communist children spy training camp is ridiculous. What’s more is that they show the ridiculousness. It involves ring kissing and the Brady Bunch! When the forgettable Russian man is telling this to Salt at the beginning, I laughed out loud. Fortunately a tight, fun, action movie really makes up for some of the weaknesses of the screenplay.

P.S. I don’t want to ruin anything, but worst pay off ever for making one of your characters an arachnologist. Just saying.

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