Cast wise we were looking at Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor, three actors I really enjoy, and knowing that Jolie doesn’t sign up to anything and likes to read the script before signing, I did think we were in for something above average.
While one agency are intent on tracking her down and soon believe she’s the spy the Russian claims, her boss in the CIA is confused and finds it hard to believe that she’s anything but the excellent CIA agent she always has been. That is until her actions begin to become a little confusing.
What’s great about looking back on Salt after seeing it is that although it builds the plot around the is she/isn’t she question, the film actually doesn’t rely on it. There are some nice twists and turns in the plot with her character and while they aren’t delivering big plot smashing surprises, they do give you a nice surprise in the way the character’s story moves.
The disappointing surprises would be in the reveal of the baddie. It’s no surprise at all and if you’ve seen a few thrillers in your time then you’ll have no difficulty in guessing who one of the main baddies is way before his reveal comes.
The strength of the film is that it keeps you engaged and despite the lack of big surprises, it still holds well as a thriller and carried bags of tension. It was within the first few minutes of the film that the film captured me and a few minutes in that the tension was rising.
Another powerful aspect of the film is the fact that the situations seem to be into the absurd and unrealistic territory, describing some of the scenarios that Salt gets involved in and manages to get through make it sound ridiculous, far too much to portray in a film. However the way that they are built up and we are shown Salt breaking through them keeps us on that side of believability, helped by an unrelenting pace.
Angelina Jolie is, as always, superb in the film. She lends her hand to the action star with as much passion as she does her dramatic roles and her performance is as engaging as always. Thanks to the writing and direction her character is far from a standard action hero and has more depth, complexities and is far more engaging.
Liev Schreiber is very good although he really comes to life in the latter part of the film, as does Chiwetel Ejiofor who so deserves a leading Hollywood role. He’s such a great actor and always seems to be the support or hidden in the background, it really is time he got more of a leading man status.
The filming of the action sequences does feel very Bourne-esque, and I’m not sure if all action films are turning that way or whether everyone is just getting used to labelling them as Bourne and it was that film that truly defined this style of action filming.
One good thing though is that despite the similar action style you can actually make out what’s happening in the scenes, even if they are blocked and tightly framed to avoid you seeing the difference between the stunt doubles and actor/actress here we still manage to understand what’s happening in the scenes.
Talking of the stunts there are a couple that are pretty exciting to watch, first is the truck jumping scene, which while stretching the bounds of reality, does look absolutely superb and raises the excitement. Another is the moment that Salt climbs out the window of her apartment, that’s such a well filmed stunt I drew a breath when the camera seemed to reveal Jolie climbing about ten stories up.
The film also sounded great in the cinema. So often in a cinema you miss the movement of sound as it’s usually just loud and all around you, with Salt though I wasn’t sure if it was the cinema getting it right or the film, or both, but the audio was particularly good and makes me believe on Dolby Digital 5.1 and upwards on a home set-up it’s going to sound fantastic.
One scene that stands out is the scene where Salt has to control her heartbeat and hide her feelings from the people around her. Deep behind the audio the heartbeat begins and builds while the other audio fades out, and before you know it you’re listening to her racing heart and watching her impassive expression, almost.
The ending does push the believability factor, although as I said it does manage to retain with you with the film and the story, it’s just that it left me with a huge question. There’s a key witness who was merely knocked out in the final scene, and when he awakes he’ll explain everything he saw and that would clear everything up.
However that doesn’t set the film up for a sequel, perhaps a trilogy, or maybe even a television series. Either way it does let the film down a little and feels rather contrived, for in a few hours it seems like it’s all going to be sorted out.
Salt isn't an exceptional film that stands above the rest of the action/thriller genre because there are aspects of the story that are a little bit too weak to allow that to happen, but there are some strong aspects to it as well. Angelina Jolie provides one of those aspects, as does her character's story which provides the most effective and enjoyable twists and turns of the film. The main plot is interesting, but it lacks the big surprise turnarounds that you really want to see in a strong thriller.
You feel tension from the opening minutes and it continues through the film, rising and falling well with the pace. The ending also lets the film down with the confusion about why the characters feel they have to make the decisions they do.
All in all though it's a solid, enjoyable action thriller that's elevated from the average with Jolie and her character's story, and some of the excellent action sequences which really lift the film.