Salt isn’t the best action movie out there and when it compares to the Daniel Craig Bond or Bourne movies probably a cut above Quantum of Solace but well below Bourne, I still enjoyed it for what it was and to appreciate the skill and beauty of Angelina Jolie.
Sony | PG13/Unrated – 104 min. – $34.95 | December 21, 2010
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Writer(s): Kurt Wimmer (written by)
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Live Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Theatrical Release Date: July 23, 2010
Features: Filmmakers’ Commentaries, Featurettes, Picture-in-Picture Track, movieIQ, BD Live
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 44.9 GB
Regions: A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 3.5/5
A couple of things before I get started: 1. This review is based upon the Unrated Director’s Cut which is 1 of the 3 cuts available on the Blu-ray. Due to time I could not watch the other two versions on their own (I did check out the “Unrated Extended Cut” while listening to the commentary, though). 2. There are many spoilers in the review so please keep that in mind as you continue.
Salt has often been described as the female version of Jason Bourne and to a certain extent that is true. You have a female government agent on the run, hunted by her own government who has a specialized set of skills and can kick anyone’s ass and get out of any situation that may be in front of her. But there’s more to the story and character than just that and for the most part, it does work.
The movie begins as CIA operative Evelyn Salt (ANGELINA JOLIE) is being held by the North Koreans for espionage but after being brutally tortured by her captors – including having a tube shoved down her throat to pour liquids down – is released thanks to an exchange arranged by her persistent boyfriend and orchestrated by her boss, Ted Winter (LIVE SCHREIBER).
We fast forward two years later to find Evelyn is now married to her knight in shining armor and still having a good career within the Agency working for a dummy company. After a day of work and wanting to get home for her anniversary, she and Ted receive word they’ve gotten a walk-in from a Russian man claiming the Russian President is in danger during his trip to attend the Vice President’s funeral (the VP had great relationships with the Russians to bring forth peace and prosperity between the two countries). Having to take the threat seriously they listen to this man. Lucky for us, Evelyn is one of the top notch people in the CIA in reading people and she speaks perfect Russian as well. Of course, perhaps luck does not come into play here especially after the interrogation this man coolly says there is a Russian spy within the CIA and her name is… Evelyn Salt, to which she reacts in a strange manner: running for her life.
Through the streets of Washington D.C. and New York City, Salt must solve the puzzle to clear her name… or so the trailers make you think. This is where the SPOILER WARNING comes in. See, not even half way through we discover that Evelyn may indeed be a Russian spy as she sets out to apparently assassinates the Russian president, meets up with the Russian contact and during which she goes through tests to prove her loyalty. But not everything is as it seems…
Ok, spoiler warning lifted.
I was a little torn with how much I liked or did not like Salt. On the one hand it is a decent movie and some tense moments but the plot didn’t seem very cohesive for whatever reason. Now, what adds some credibility to the scenarios were the recent discovery of actual Russian spies in our midst and an international incident with the Russians as they make exchanges and try to sweep the entire ordeal under the table. Amongst the Russian spies was Anna Chapman, a woman who could only be described as gorgeous a living, breathing, real life Bond girl if you ever saw one all she needed was a silly name that would double for a woman’s anatomy. But I digress, point was that although there’s plenty of things where you needed to have suspension of disbelief (not unlike some of the action scenes in the Bourne movies), there seemed to be more than a kernel of truth behind the plot.
In terms of the cast and in particular the star, they all do a good job. Angelina Jolie once again shows she can still kick ass like she did in the Tomb Raider movies but here she also has the smarts and can outwit some of the best minds within the CIA. Jolie looks as beautiful as ever although she does spend about half the movie as a blonde (not the best look) before dying her hair to her natural darker tones which suits her better. There are plenty of aspects to her character and even though this is a summer action movie, I was impressed with her performance throughout.
The supporting cast also steps up despite less screen time (by comparison) and thus not as much character development. Liev Schreiber has always been one of my favorite actors, someone who seems to be underutilized but his performance his effective enough while Chiwetel Ejiofor one again is good but has even less to do than even Schreiber as his character is tasked in capturing Salt but there’s not a whole lot more to his character, though I can imagine if there’s a “Salt 2”, he could get more screen time.
Salt was directed by thriller aficionado Phillip Noyce who has previously helmed Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Bone Collector while writer Kurt Wimmer has an interesting resume which includes The Recruit, Ultraviolet and Law Abiding Citizen, none of which I’m a particular fan of, though The Recruit is a passable thriller thanks in large part to its leads.
Overall, I enjoyed Salt for what it is. Yes, it probably could’ve used some better character development especially from its supporting characters and I did find some of the plot elements, while nicely laid out, a tad on the predictable side. That said, the action scenes are well directed and Angelina Jolie herself makes to be one hell of an action hero in the vein of James Bond and Jason Bourne. I can only hope we get to see more from her and this character as there is potential.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.25/5
This Blu-ray comes in Sony’s standard BD cases with the annoying side latch. No slip cover has been included which is also per Sony’s MO.
Theatrical and Extended Cuts:
I will quickly go over the 3 different cuts. I utilized the deleted/extended scene marker which was a big help as it showed someone who did not see Salt in the theater what was added and there was some more violence/blood put back into the “Unrated Director’s Cut” and although it’s nothing brutal I do think it might’ve warranted an R rating. There were also a couple character moments, namely Evelyn’s relationship with her husband, added in or at least extended.
The theatrical version has a 1:39:59 running time, unrated director’s cut is 1:44:04 and the unrated extended cut is 1:41:04. The extended one is 1:05 longer while the director’s cut is 4:05 longer.
Filmmakers’ Commentary – Director Phillip Noyce offers up stories from his childhood, which can also be heard in the featurettes, where he got his fascination for directing thrillers and also gives insights into filming Salt. In between others are brought in such as the visual effects supervisor and composer James Newton Howard amongst others.
From what I sampled (I only fully listened to the Unrated Director’s Cut), the commentaries for all 3 versions are the same.
The Ultimate Female Action Hero (8:05; HD) – The featurette focuses on Angelina “No Fear” Jolie going all the way with doing certain action scenes herself. There’s really nothing really special here as it contains some behind-the-scenes footage intermixed with footage from the film and on-set interviews with members of the cast and crew.
Spy Disguise: The Looks of Evelyn Salt (5:26; HD) delves into the make-up and disguises used throughout the movie to change the looks of Angelina Jolie with comments by the star and hair and make-up stylists as well as the prosthetic artist.
“The Treatment” Radio Interview with Phillip Noyce (27:12) is, well, an interview the director did with a radio show to advertise the movie.
There are also previews for The Tourist, The Green Hornet, Takers, Easy A, Red Hill, Eat Pray Love, The Other Guys and Ticking Clock.
BLU-RAY EXCLUSIVES – 3.25/5
Spy Cam: Picture-in-Picture – With this feature, available only on the theatrical version, you can watch via PiP cast and crew members talk about making Salt. However, as nifty as this might be, and I am someone who enjoys picture-in-picture tracks, this doesn’t offer much more than what is seen in the different featurettes and they don’t pop up as often as I like (there’d be a few minutes in between each).
The Real Agents (12:33; HD) takes a look at real undercover agents during the Cold War from the perspective of both former members of the CIA and the KGB. They explain what it takes to be an agent and what type of person it takes to be one.
Salt: Declassified (29:47; HD) is a more comprehensive making-of featurette that has more behind-the-scenes footage intermingled with scenes from the movie and interviews with various members of the cast and crew. At first this plays off as a typical EPK feature and there are elements of that but you do get some more info on how the movie was made, but you also have to sit through people telling you what the plot was about and introducing us to the characters and the actors who portray them. Some of the footage was culminated from the other featurettes.
The Modern Master of the Political Thriller (9:15; HD) – This featurette focuses on director Phillip Noyce and his style and approach of directing Salt and working with Angelina Jolie (whom he’s worked with before on The Bone Collector). Again, like the “Ultimate Female Action Hero” featurette, there are comments from Noyce on his fascination with spies from early childhood mixed in with behind-the-scenes footage.
False Identity: Creating a New Reality (7:14; HD) is focused on the visual effects used throughout the film from driving up to the White House to take-off from the WH lawn. It’s actually quite fascinating on where they initially filmed the scene and turned it into Washington DC. There are other visual effects elements used during the New York City scenes, at the church plus some explosions and/or bullet hits.
movieIQ is Sony’s staple feature where upon you can check out trivia while watching the film, although I’ve really never found the feature that interesting.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Salt is presented with a 2.40 aspect ratio and in 1080p high-definition. The video transfer looks really good in HD and has some nice detail levels throughout especially on the close-up objects or characters. Colors aren’t exactly vivid but that I more a stylistic choice by the director, though daylight scenes still are fairly even. If I had only one complaint it would be some of the black levels, especially at the beginning, were not the best. I believe part of the issue might be the re-inserted footage because this scene was extended quite a bit compared with the theatrical version, but I can’t be sure.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
Meanwhile, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is quite robust from beginning to end. It’s not the best lossless mix I’ve encountered but still really well done from James Newton Howard’s score to the many audio effects used throughout (gunshots, ricochets, car crashes, etc).
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Overall, Salt isn’t the best action movie out there and when it compares to the Daniel Craig Bond or Bourne movies probably a cut above Quantum of Solace but well below Bourne, I still enjoyed it for what it was and to appreciate the skill and beauty of Angelina Jolie. The Blu-ray itself excels in both the video and audio while the features, although nothing noteworthy, are good. The highlight for this release is the fact you get 3 versions including the “Unrated Director’s Cut” which was the version I recommend.