Angelina Jolie is larger than life.
Now, in Salt, she’s running from the CIA and dodging bullets, freefalling onto passing semi trucks, blowing out buildings, and smuggling into the White House.
These were all reasons why I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing this film at first, upon seeing the trailers. However, I knew I was going to see it simply for Angelina, the modern screen siren who also happens to possess considerable dramatic talent. And those eyes say so much alone.
I continue to be reminded that the best film-going experience comes from knowing very little about a film beforehand and going in blind, with little to no expectation, and simply experiencing the film as it unfolds, like we do in life. And like life, if we proceed with preconceived notions and lofty expectation, we only succeed in disappointing ourselves.
And let me say, I loved Salt.
I want to go back and see it again. Believe me, this shocks me more than anyone.
But let me explain. From the opening the film moves at a freight train pacing, as Evelyn Salt is shown being tortured in North Korea two years prior to the setting of the film. She gets out and returns to the states, to the CIA tracking spies. It’s her anniversary and she’s about to leave when they’re alerted to a Russian defector being held in the building for questioning. She interrogates him and he swiftly explains that for years the Russians have been raising children to be Russian spies, infiltrating America until the time comes and they take down the country.
And Evelyn Salt is one of these spies.
Insisting she’s innocent, Salt manages to get out of the building and is on the run for the rest of the film. While elements of this plot sound trite or clichéd, the handling of it by the screenwriter, director, editor, and actors infuses fresh life and energy into the whole thing. The images of graceful, thin Angelina racing through the city and pirouetting, jumping, flinging, and landing give the action genre an injection of ballet, of artful movement and choreography that is sorely missing from any similar film with a male lead.
A sequence in a church during the funeral of the American Vice President is positively operatic and chilling, a scene that the film pivots on in several important ways, and the viewers are given their own first moment of doubt as to the true identity of Evelyn Salt.
There’s also a shot that is used prominently in the promotions, of Angelina in her newly-dyed black hair moving through the crowd of policemen eyeing the Russian President, that looks strikingly like the shot of Satan moving through the Sanhedrin as Jesus gets flogged in “Passion of the Christ.”
While the very concept of the film is overreaching, one can almost see a woman of Angelina’s particular build pulling these stunts off in real life, due to her light weight, grace, fitness, and reflexes. On the other hand, a bulky, heavy, muscle-bound male performing such feats is less convincing (and more boring, if it had been done the way it was originally intended, with Tom Cruise in the lead role.)
It’s hard to pull off surprising twists and turns in an action film, and so much relies on the actors’ portrayal and treatment of their character as they move from scene to progressive scene. Without revealing anything, I will say that there were moments of genuine surprise and shock as the story sped toward its conclusion…
Actresses like Angelina Jolie strike me by their varied choices in roles; she’s drawn to serious, deep, thought-provoking roles like A Mighty Heart, Alexander, and Gia. Then she has to get the action and inner athlete out of her system with films like Tomb Raider, Wanted, and Salt. She’s multi-faceted, drawn to portraying the human condition in all its many faces and manifestations.
And she just likes to have a fun time, too.
Fortunately the audience has a fun time as well in Salt, as well as a genuinely thrilling experience that benefits from a story well told.