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SALT
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski, Andre Braugher
Director: Phillip Noyce
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Reviews
Length: 100 Minutes (Theatrical Cut), 101 Minutes (Unrated Extended Cut), 104 Minutes (Unrated Director's Cut)
Release Date: December 21, 2010

The name of the agent is Evelyn Salt.”

My name is Evelyn Salt.”

Then you are a Russian spy.”

Film **1/2

Salt puts a neat little twist on the espionage spy thriller. It plants its central character in the middle of a most intense dilemma concerning her true identity and where her loyalties lie. And although there's plenty to like about this slickly made action thriller, the story slowly starts to crumble about midway through and if you happen to be a huge fan of the Bourne movies (as I am), you're not going to get much you haven't seen in terms of action, not to mention done way better.

The first half of the movie is most engaging, especially the setup. Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is one of the most highly trained and best covert agents in the CIA. The opening of the movie illustrates her dedication to her job, as she is seen tortured in a North Korean prison when denying that she's an agent. She is then saved in just the nick of time when fellow agents negotiate her release.

Once she's back home, Salt is ready to enjoy some time on leave with her husband when her office gets an unexpected visitor in the form of a Russian defector. She confronts the man, named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski), in an interrogation room. He then proceeds to spill the beans on “Day X”, an operation crafted during the Cold War by a Russian spymaster and that will result in the destruction of the United States at the hands of Mother Russia.

He then reveals the process by which this will be set into motion. A handful of English speaking Russian agents were handpicked and trained since birth during the 70s. The most vital part of the training process is an intense and extended conditioning exercise that makes every trainee's loyalty to Russia unbreakable.

The last bit of information mentioned by Orlov is that the Russian Vice President will be killed while attending the funeral of the U.S. Vice President in NYC. He then reveals the name of the intended assassin, which turns out to be Evelyn Salt. This, of course, puts our heroine in one hell of a predicament.

Thus begins the chase, which begins with Salt improvising an escape out of her CIA offices in a fantastic sequence. She pleads her innocence, despite all of her fellow office workers not believing her. The only one who harbors any belief in her is fellow agent and longtime friend Ted (Liev Schreiber).

Nevertheless, Salt finds herself on the run in an effort to try and clear her name. However, as the chase escalates and she dons a number of disguises, we start to sense that Salt may just be the very person the Russian defector identified her as. But the movie never really makes a clear point as to what her motivations are, and as a result it's kind of hard to care about what happens to her.

The action bits are extremely well done for the most part. The fact that Ms. Jolie appears to be doing a good many of her own stunts, as well as what looks to be zero use of any CGI in these sequences makes them all the more effective. The problem, though, is that it looks as though all of the action and fight choreography were lifted out of all three Bourne movies, which already got the job done in terms of no CG use and the fact that Matt Damon was clearly seen in a great deal of the action.

It's a confidently made action thriller, there's no doubt about that. Director Phillip Noyce, who helmed both Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, is one of the best directors to ever grace the spy genre. His filmmaking skills, that of a true old school pro, is one of the saving graces of this flick.

The fault in this movie lies in the way it tries to keep it's lead character's motivations a secret until the very end, because it results in the story becoming something of a muddled mess as it draws near its conclusion. I was also left a bit underwhelmed by plot revelation towards the end, which seemed to me a little tacked on.

Like I said, if you're a die hard fan of the Bourne movies as I am, there's little you'll find in Salt that hasn't been done much better. But if you're not too demanding, the movie will certainly deliver what you expect. The one thing I, and I'm sure many can agree on, is that it is fantastic to see the sexy Ms. Jolie kick a lot of ass on screen!

Video ****

This is one slick-looking thriller and Sony has done a most masterful job in enhancing the look for this Blu-ray release. The movie's action is captured in both outdoor and indoor environments, and both settings are captured exuberantly well in terms detail (even in some of the more darkly lit set pieces). Of course, it goes without saying that Ms. Jolie looks stunning in the 1080p. Colors and backgrounds also shine terrifically in this presentation.

Audio ****

An ass-kicking lead female character and a DTS HD mix simply go hand in hand. This sound presentation is so remarkably good that I would actually rank it alongside the sound performance of the Bourne Blu-ray releases. There's a fantastic balance at hand between the action, the music playback, the explosions and all the background noise associated with the action bits. Absolutely well handled from beginning to end!

Features ***1/2

It's not everyday that we get a single Blu-ray disc release containing THREE versions of a movie, but that's what Sony has managed to do with this release. We get the Theatrical Version, as well as an Unrated Extended Cut which runs a minute longer and an Unrated Director's Cut that is four minutes longer. As far as extras go, we are treated to a Picture-in-Picture track titled “Spy Cam” (available only on the Theatrical Version), which offers behind the scenes footage and interviews as the movie is playing. Additional extras include a nicely informative commentary with director Phillip Noyce, a good number of featurettes including “The Ultimate Female Action Hero”, “The Real Agents”, “Spy Disguise”, “The Modern Master of the Political Thriller”, “False Identity” and the main documentary of the bunch, the half hour “Salt: Declassified”. Lastly, we have several Trailers and a Sony MovieIQ Trivia track.

Summary:

Salt is extremely well made and gets the job done in all the areas it needs to, and is borderline brilliant in its opening act. The way in which the story progresses into the final act is what really lets the entire movie down. I'm all for ass-kicking female characters, but you're simply better off re-watching one of the Bourne movies, or even some of the recent James Bond adventures as well.

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