When you're a screenwriter with a filmography containing such naff films as Equilibrium, Ultraviolet and Law Abiding Citizen, I wouldn't really put much credit to your name. The first is dull, the second is unforgivably terrible and the third is unrightfully smug. The only half-decent film Kurt Wimmer has scribed is 2003's The Recruit, yet not even that was great.
Wimmer is fairly adequate with formulating plots, maybe even somewhat creative, but all of his films lack the spark to be truly engaging experiences. It may be a case of bad execution from directors, true, but this cannot be an excuse for each of his failures. With Salt, he had the chance to redeem himself, writing alongside Brian Helgeland (Robin Hood, Green Zone) to do a spy thriller clearly influenced by the Bourne trilogy. So has he redeemed himself? That's a no.
Although the titular role was originally meant to be played by a man, Salt is another addition in the current trend of action films with female leads. Like Kill Bill and Underworld, our femme fatale kicks ass on a regular basis, but other variables regrettably drag the film down.
Angelina Jolie is Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent with a very unconvincing blonde wig. She's been called in to interrogate Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski), a mysterious Russian man who has simply walked into Salt’s place of work and has claimed to be a defector with vital information.
Once being questioned, Orlov alleges that a Russian spy is going to assassinate the Russian president while he attends the American Vice President's funeral. When Salt is about to leave the room, Orlov then states that the spy's name is Evelyn Salt. Brain scans show that he is telling the truth, resulting in Salt's colleagues immediately becoming suspicious of her.
In retaliation, an agitated Salt elaborately escapes the building despite its lockdown, with the CIA hot on her tail. She soon discovers that her husband, Mike (August Diehl) has been kidnapped and goes on the run from the law to try and find him. But is she a spy or has she been set up?
For the first 40 or 50 minutes, Salt is fun and well-paced, containing inspired, if a little over-the-top, fight sequences with impressive stunt work. In these moments, Salt is a popcorn flick at its finest and is intensely exhilarating. Unfortunately, the film loses itself halfway through as the plot becomes increasingly ludicrous and the movie slowly drifts into a bit of a tired bore.
It suffers from problems which were present in Wimmer's script for Law Abiding Citizen, as in it's annoyingly determined to have as many twists and turns as humanely possible. This results in Salt's final 20 minutes becoming a confusing mess, and I'll admit that I completely lost track of what was going on. That's probably my fault but even after searching for answers on the internet, I'm still fairly puzzled. Calm down, Wimmer!
Nonetheless, the fight scenes are hella cool, thankfully not resorting to CGI and actually using practical stunts. Phillip Noyce has proven that he knows how to perfectly film an action set-piece, as I was fairly impressed by what I saw. Although a tad cartoonish, they should be enough to get your blood pumping.
From turning into MacGyver and making a bazooka using a fire extinguisher and some cleaning products, jumping off a bridge to land on the top of a truck, and gliding down an elevator shaft in the White House, Jolie certainly kicks some serious ass as her eponymous character.
The Oscar winning actress is fascinating in her role, showing that she's not the talentless tabloid star many wrongfully think she is. She's a fantastic action star, as shown in Wanted and Tomb Raider (although both movies in this franchise sucked ass), as well as an emotive performer, which this film sadly doesn't give her an opportunity to portray. Her character is fairly intriguing as we, the audience, are unsure as to whether or not she is the villain for most of the film. "Who is Salt?" the poster states. Indeed.
Liev Schreiber, a very capable actor, plays Ted Winter, one of Salt's colleagues who is forced to hunt her down. He's the one who trusts her, while the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor's character Peabody is a colleague determined to track her down and throw her in a jail cell.
Because of our initial lack of knowledge on who Salt really is, it makes it difficult to decide who we should be rooting for. Either we cheer for the ass-kicking Jolie as she tries to outrun the law and prove her innocence, or we root for the CIA as they attempt to take down a woman about to murder the Russian president. Although it could be said that this is interesting, I found it to be problematic.
All in all, I just can't bring myself to say that this is a good movie. The very promising first half is stupidly let down by the absurd plot points which come about in the second half. The film does have some inspiring action and nifty direction, but it fails on an emotional level. It's a shame because Salt was massively hyped up and there were many anticipating its release. Let's just hope that Pepper is a better sequel.