September Issue 2010

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 9 years ago

Spiderman’s stunts were believable. The man could, after all, shoot web out of his wrists allowing him to climb walls, jump across roofs, swing over busy urban streets and slide down flat surfaces. Evelyn Salt does all that and more without super powers — and the stunts are not the only ludicrous aspect inSalt.

The plot holes in the movie made for confusing viewing. Of course if this were an Indian movie, the preposterous scenes — such as tasering the policeman like a puppet to drive the getaway car, or jumping out of a helicopter in a snowy forest and surviving — could be excused, but Salt is a spy thriller, with a star cast and a plot based on very real Cold War tension. Unfortunately, like many Indian movies, Salt focused more on the action element and disappointingly little on the plot.

Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is a Russian sleeper spy planted in the CIA. The point of revelation for the CIA comes when Vassily Orlov, played by Daniel Olbrychski, walks into the CIA office and reveals that a Russian spy will attempt to kill the Russian president in New York and the spy’s name is Evelyn Salt. Salt’s best friend and boss, Ted Winter, is shocked to the point of disbelief and as she makes a run for it, his pursuit of her is driven by a desire to discover her true identity. The twists in the story leave one speculating till the very end and the plot gets more complex with the informant’s tip-off about a covert KA programme,

Director Phillip Noyce is famous for his spy thrillers, such as Patriot Games, but Salt should not be nominated for his hall of fame. Jolie looks incredibly fit and has performed all her stunts in the film herself, but her sultry sexiness may be the only thing drawing audiences. Barring the more obvious mistakes — Jolie walks in to question Orlov with an ashtray and a pack of cigarettes but it disappears when she is filmed alone in the same room — the story was difficult to grasp. When did the sleeper cell recruit and train Salt, since she went to live with her American parents when she was hardly seven-years-old? Writer Kurt Wimmer has been criticised for not paying attention to detail. There has been extended criticism over a lack of dialogue and Emmy-award-winner Andre Braugher’s role. Braugher was pushed in the background with the inconspicuous role of US secretary of defense that did not do him justice.

The movie could have been much more exciting and interesting as it comes soon after 10 real-life sleeper spies were arrested and sent back to Russia from the US. High-profile Anna Chapman and the other spies were sent packing, but still managed to stir a lot of speculation and excitement two decades after the end of the Cold War. Was Salt an attempt at a preposterous James Bond-like movie, or was this a mindless action flick to suit our summer frivolity? It is likely both are true. The movie has a torrid pace for its full 99 minutes. But as Salt is released at the same time as Inception (by Hollywood’s hottest director Christopher Nolan and possessing another knockout performance by Leonardo DiCaprio), it is likely this spy thriller will be overshadowed by the latter’s success.

Maheen Bashir Adamjee is an APNS award-winning journalist. She was an editorial assistant at Newsline from 2010-2011.