Salt (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
3Feb/110

Salt (2010)

There is nothing better when watching a movie and being pleasantly surprised at how good a movie turns out to be.  When a movie you had high hopes for exceeds those expectations, it is great but does not compare to the times when a movie comes out of left field and amazes you with its quality.   This has once again happened to me with Salt, a movie that looked like a generic action film and was in reality anything but.

I had very little hope or desire to watch this film because of the plot, which revolves around Angelina Joile as a CIA agent trying to clear her name when a defected Russian agent accuses her of being a Russian Spy.  The plot synopsis and trailer made the film seem genuinely average and clichéd.  The last 10 years you could blindly point in a video store and you would probably point to a film that had this same sort of plot about a spy trying to clear his/her name and “get to the bottom of the conspiracy.”  It is so commonplace that the same summer that Salt was released, Tom Cruise had a very similar movie released just a month earlier.  The only reason I even saw the film was because I forgot to reorder my Netflix queue and it was shipped to me.  I popped in the movie hoping for an enjoyable by the numbers spy thriller and was given a movie with genuine twists and well choreographed action.

I do feel for the marketing department for this film because they were damned if they did or damned if they didn’t.  I also enjoyed the film because it took one’s expectations of what was going to happen and swerved the opposite way to keep the viewer on their toes and not sure what to expect next.  The filmmakers used the clichéd basis for the film to lull the audience into a false sense of security and then pulled the rug out on them.  Yet, if the trailers and marketing showed the major twist in the film, it might have made the movie look more appealing for people like me but they would have ruined a great surprise and hurt the movie’s effectiveness in the end.   So they are stuck with marketing a film that looks predictable from the outside without being able to showcase any of the really cool things that sets the film apart.  While the movie was still a modest success thanks in part to casting the perfect lead, I think the keeping the twists secret might have cost the film some money at the box office.

It should have been a tip off that the movie was not going to be as predictable as I thought when I saw Philip Noyce was the director.  Noyce is a director that is very good at taking genre trappings and making something better out of them.  This is what he did with Salt, and alongside with screenwriter Kurt Wimmer and Jolie, crafted an action movie that lived in a shade of grey.  The heroes in Salt might not be the most heroic figures and were not taking on the villains for democracy and apple pie but for much more selfish reasons.  The movie was not  worried about doing things that “can’t be done in action films” and that made the movie that much better because of that fact.

The movie was not perfect and still lives comfortably in the B-movie trappings.  Once again we have a hero who has the ability to, at one time, dodge bullets of countless villains while shooting accurately with ease.  There is a secret villain reveal that anyone that has every watched a film before will come seeing from the first act.  Some characters are on the shallow end when it comes to development.   Yet the strangest thing in the film to me was seeing Andre Braugher randomly appear in the last act for a nothing role.  I think he might have had three lines of dialogue and is in a role that someone of his stature would not usually take.  I was trying to figure out why he was in the film and if he had a bigger part than I thought. This appearance, which was a distraction, happened during the climax.  The timing was not good and took me out of the story.

Andre Braugher, after his one line in the film.

In the big picture, any problems with the film that I would have are slight and didn’t keep me from appreciating the skillful craftsmanship evident in the film.  Salt might feel like a movie that you have seen countless times before but there is something more behind the curtain.  Salt is commendable for just being an action movie with no real delusions of grandeur. Its only objective is to entertain.  Entertained I was, so I implore anyone that is a fan of well-made action flicks, disregard the previews and take a chance on Salt. The movie might surprise you.

Posted by Ryan

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