TIM LINCE: Salt

Starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Shreider and Cassidy Hinkle. Directed by Phillip Noyce. Screenplay by Kurt Wimmer. Released August 18 2010.

My thoughts before

I FIRST heard about this movie after seeing a bus stop poster down my road. It sported the single worst tagline I have ever seen with a movie - “Who is Salt?”

I’ve moaned about the titles of films before, but there is two lessons the makers of this film have broken.

First off; don’t name your film after a condiment. I wouldn’t want to go watch Mustard either, unless it was a gritty film noir based in the Cluedo world.


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Secondly; don’t have a tagline that’s totally ambiguous unless you have seen the film, therefore becoming pointless in any advertising purposes.

If Star Wars, for instance, had the tagline ‘who is Darth?’ would you want to see it?

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A pointless rant perhaps, but it’s the small things that build a first impression on a film. A bad trailer can have a similar effect and it’s equally as niggling.

Other than a torrid first impression of a film I’d not heard of before, I’m pretty non-plussed at the thought of seeing it.

Other than an unusually classy performance in Changeling three years ago, I can’t think of any really stand-out films that Angelina Jolie has starred in (though I’ve yet to see Wanted, which is supposed to be very good for what it is).

Director Phillip Noyse is best known for a slew of films in the 90s whose main purpose now is to fill up the schedules on late night TV. They include (you’ll remember them with no resounding impression either way); Patriot Games, The Bone Collector, The Saint and Clear & Present Danger.

He tried to veer away the mundane last decade, with attempts such as the cinematography treat Rabbit-Proof Fence, but seems to have returned to his action thriller roots with Salt.

The release is also (nearly) perfectly timed, as the plotline about an attractive woman on the run because she’s accused of being a Russian spy is similar (ish) to the well publicised ‘spy swap’ saga a few months ago.

So all-in-all I await with wavering hope that the film will have any lasting appeal but with interest because I found the Russian spy news story interesting when it was in the papers.

And of course I’m dying to find out ‘who is salt’!

Afterwards

THE answer to the promo poster’s question ‘who is Salt?’ is answered simply in the first 10 minutes of this film, and as her rampage across New York begins the team behind this film clearly think the viewer will constantly be asking ‘oh which side is she on, who is Salt?’ until the answer is revealed at the end.

But no, the viewer is not left asking this key question (basically what the film needs as it’s hook) because the answer is so strikingly predictable that I was growing inpatient waiting for the obvious truth to reveal itself.

But, the predictability aside, Salt isn’t a bad film per-se.

The action sequences are mainly solid throughout, although there are no real cutting edge sequences that set it aside from similar ‘on the run’ thrillers (jumping from a lorry to a lorry on a highway was one such example; impressive to look at but been done hundreds of times before).

Angelina Jolie still doesn’t completely convince in a lead action role. She has a slight lack of charisma and believability that is the fate of most females attempting similar roles often fall down on - it’s simply a lot more difficult to believe a good looking woman as a hardcore, vicious, unstoppable killer than a muscle-bound brute (see: most of the cast of The Expendables).

I thought, in fact, that Salt played out more like an extended pilot (albeit well budgeted) for a new American TV show than a fully fledged movie. The minor twists throughout, the ending that suggests a hook to watch the next episode, the under-explained plot points that demanded more depth, the use of flash-backs to flesh out flat characters...

But thanks to it’s being a singular big screen outing, it goes from a decent premise for TV to a mediocre movie.

One niggle too - I hate how Jolie’s character’s husband was purely used as a narrative device. Once he’d done what he was written in for, namely having a reason why Salt would have easy access to spiders, he was thrown away and forgotten.

And without ruining the ending (even though you’ll predict it a half hour in) the final resolution made me roll my eyes at least three times with it’s pretentious inevitability.

I mentioned earlier that the timing of Salt’s release is fortunate - only a couple of months after one of the most highly publicised Russian spy events in recent history. But the film’s release is also doubly unfortunate too, as the comparison with Inception (released only weeks before) will jar moviegoers as it makes the quality of Salt pale in comparison to what is, objectively, a fairly standard thriller in normal circumstances.

But with a better, more intelligent film out that’s aimed at a similar audience, it goes to show that you really need to stand out and do something original now - because there’s always a release that will make weaker films ever more dire when comparisons are made.

So if you have a bit more money spare and have seen Inception more than twice then Salt will fill that 90-minute gap, just don’t expect anything original or noteworthy to remember the next day.

There’s lots of explosions, guns and Angelina Jolie pouting, plus if you are one of the 0.006% (approx) who is intrigued by the films tagline then you also get the satisfaction of an answer. What more could you want?

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