Pass the salt

I was excited to watch Salt not just for Jolie but for director Philip Noyce, of Dead Calm fame.

Saeed Rahman August 25, 2010

OK, first a confession: I am a huge Angelina Jolie fan.  I know, I know, some of you can’t stand her home-wrecking ways, and others find the adopting-a-child-from-every-continent routine bizarre and somewhat racist.  I, however, find her one of the most exciting stars out there and am unapologetically besotted. In the ongoing feud between Team Aniston and Team Jolie, I’m perfectly clear on where I stand.

I was excited to watch Salt not just for Jolie but also because of director Philip Noyce, responsible for Nicole Kidman’s Dead Calm, the poignant Rabbit Proof Fence, and The Quiet American. With these impeccable credentials, how, one wondered, could Salt miss? But miss it does and badly. The basic problem with this film is that it is a one-trick pony, that trick being Jolie participating in snazzy action sequences. While she’s pulled it off before in Tomb Raider, which was also high on action and meagre of plotline, Salt’s flimsy storyline is even more ludicrous and the action sequences that it so heavily relies on are simply not up to par. The novelty value of watching a woman inflict slickly-edited physical pain is simply not enough to work with.

Jolie plays the eponymous Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent out of commission since her bad experience in North Korea. Salt now devotes herself to paperwork and lives with her arachnologist husband.  Early on in the film we find out that Salt is actually a Russian sleeper agent and then that old tried and tested plot to kill the American president is trotted out, along with some malarkey about a bunker underneath the White House.  It’s all very simple and easily resolved.  Oh, and don’t let me forget the plan to bomb Mecca which is also foiled along the way.

Salt was initially offered to Tom Cruise who turned it down to play another rogue agent in Knight and Day. Smart choice, Tom.  Knight and Day might not have been a stellar offering but it’s a whole lot better than this dull, dreadful eye sore. Along the way, Jolie changes hair colour (do you like your Angie blond or brunette? Take your pick.), steals many items of clothing, all of which fit as if they’d been tailor-made for her, and pouts at many a baddie. But these are just minor irritants. The real problems lie at Salt’s heart — namely, that it doesn’t have one. In lieu of this, it employs every cliché in the book and zealously devotes itself to insulting the intelligence of the average movie-going audience. With films like Inception out there, with myriad fantastical visual stunts, and gorgeous action choreography, the stunt work in this film just looks clumsy, dated and trite. Come on guys, we are paying money for this, you know! As for the writing, well, it’s abysmal. Leaden would be a compliment.

Hollywood has produced action heroines that have been both smart and tough. The iconic Ridley played by Sigourney Weaver from the Alien series is one example. Even Jolie in Mr and Mrs Smith, though not really a characterisation for an actress to aspire to, was considerably more convincing than this. It also comes as a blow to Jolie die-hards such as myself, who enjoy her public image which tends towards subversive, rebellious and enigmatic. If Jolie and Noyce think their action figure heroine is anywhere near subversive they might want to check out Noomi Rapace in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Salander could kick Salt across a room and that’s something I’d pay to watch.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd,   2010.


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