Monday, July 26, 2010

Salt (2010) – Review

Salt is a fun, exciting action film, wholly ludicrous and lacking real emotional depth, but quite entertaining none the less. For this film to work, the viewer must suspend their disbelief, even within the world that the film has created, as the action and plot, while visually stunning and exhilarating, are substantially farfetched (especially the action). There is a place for exaggerated action (see screenwriter Kurt Wimmer’s Equilibrium), but it does not play nearly as well in a thriller supposedly based in reality. What holds the film together is director Phillip Noyce’s ability to tell a good story amidst lots of explosions and chases and other actiony things. And, Angelina Jolie is cast perfectly for the role and is able to carry it (thankfully Tom Cruise dropped out, as this is much better than it would have been with Cruise). Noyce is able to keep the film flowing and moving forward keeping the audience engaged in the story by not letting it repose or linger too long in one spot. His management of the narrative structure is top-notch and the pacing of the film is one of its strongest attributes, something that is rarely mastered. Jolie is very good dramatically and in her ability to pull off the stunt work (doing most of her own stunts), but a major flaw in the film, damaging the emotional core, is that she seems to have no chemistry with August Diehl (who is also a good actor in other films). The lack of chemistry and the film not really giving enough time to the relationship between Jolie and Diehl’s characters leads to the audience not buying into the emotions and thus not investing in the characters – which in turn makes the movie about seeing how the story turns out and not about the characters, hampering it from being anything more than a fun action movie. It is a shame that the casting in this instance was not better suited as it would have made the film have a much bigger emotional impact making it more powerful for viewers and ultimately a better film. On the technical side, Noyce delivers another good action film, which is not surprising given his track-record. Wimmer writes another high action thriller with twists and turns abounding, but like some of his previous work, the emotion is lacking. The score is quite good from composer James Newton Howard drawing the viewer in (which the film needed without real emotion coming from the characters). Robert Elswit, as always, shoots the film beautifully and Scott Chambliss provides fitting production design to the atmosphere of the film. While Jolie is good and Diehl is not given enough depth, the other principal supporting cast is adequate in their roles, though the issue with all the characters, really, is lack of emotional depth (the viewer does not care about any of them, aside from actor allegiances brought into the movie). The film was truly built as a star vehicle. Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor (who is wonderful in many other films) are decent, as is Daniel Olbrychski, but none of them is given anything dramatically interesting to do. Salt makes for a great thrilling story and medium for Jolie, but not much else. 6/10

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