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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Angelina Jolie
Liev Schreiber
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Marion McCorry
August Diehl
Daniel Olbrychski.
Directors
Phillip Noyce.
Screenwriters
Kurt Wimmer.
Running Time
95 minutes

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Salt
It’s Bourne meets No Way Out as Angelina Jolie’s spy goes on the run…


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Plot
CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Jolie) goes on the run when a Russian defector accuses her of being a Soviet sleeper agent, with a deadly agenda: kill the Russian president and trigger World War III. As her CIA bosses track her down, Salt fights to stay one step ahead, and rescue her kidnapped husband. But a terrifying truth may soon be revealed that will change everything…


Review
Salt
NB: A mid-movie spoiler revealed in the following review. Do not read on if you don’t want to know anymore.

How Angelina Jolie and Phillip Noyce must have smiled inwardly and breathed a massive sigh of relief when the FBI finally managed to do something right and round up that group of, frankly, inept Russian sleeper spies back at the end of June. Because, until then, the concept of Salt — the thriller which reunites the director/star pairing some ten years after they first teamed up for The Bone Collector — seemed like a distant dream, a preposterous fantasy world, the sort of off-the-top-of-a-screenwriter’s head nonsense that makes your dad shake his head on a Sunday afternoon viewing and mutter darkly, “That’s far-fetched.” After all, it revolves around the idea of Russian sleeper spies, buried deep within the upper echelons of American government, ready to shed their cover at a moment’s notice and strike at the heart of the Great Satan.

Now, thanks to Anna Chapman and her Commie cronies, Salt doesn’t seem so far-fetched, after all. Having said that, if Chapman and her pals are ever allowed to clap eyes on the movie, they’ll recognise virtually nothing about their mundane lives. Not for Jolie’s Evelyn Salt the day-to-day drudgery of form-filling, light bureaucracy and keeping up appearances. Instead, this is the sort of post-Bourne spy who considers it all in a day’s work to bounce off bridges onto moving trucks, casually wipe out a squadron of trained assassins, and change her appearance more often than presenters on The One Show switch channels. Or, perhaps, that should be allegiance.

For — and here comes that promised spoiler — in just the first hint that the sands of Salt are going to shift more often than your average blockbuster, it’s soon revealed that Salt may, after all, be a Russkie plant, the sort you can’t pull up without causing serious damage. From this moment on, the film lurches enjoyably into the unknown, as we’re invited to consider the prospect of Angelina Jolie, not as a heroine, but as a villain. Or, truth be told, something inbetween, as Noyce, that old stager, revels in keeping the audience guessing on Salt’s motivations and actions, even when she appears to be up to her gorgeous neck not so much in derring do as derring shouldn’t.

All of which wouldn’t be possible without Jolie. After all, this is a film that revolves almost entirely around her, with her valiant supporting actors — Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the CIA agents dedicated to cutting her down — for the most part reduced to standing around and admiring her incredible, crazy, death-defying antics. And when it comes to selling incredible, crazy, death-defying antics, Jolie has few peers in the action business. And we’re including the guys in that. Whether it’s been the disappointing Tomb Raider series, or abseiling down a skyscraper in a corset in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, or flipping a car over a bus in Wanted, Jolie has been a dominating, vital presence in action movies for almost a decade.

And that continues here, with her on impressively steely form as Salt, convincing completely with action sequences in which she escapes from a moving cop car by using a taser in a manner that would surely invalidate the warranty, or manages to get down a lift shaft without actually waiting for the lift to arrive. Particularly in the movie’s second half, when Salt barely utters a word, it’s a performance that rests entirely on Jolie’s natural presence and physicality. It’s at times like this that Jolie brings a freshness to the character and the action that the tried and tested Tom Cruise — who was attached to Kurt Wimmer’s much sought-after screenplay back when she was a he, ultimately rejecting it because of similarities to his Mission: Impossible character, Ethan Hunt — might not. If Anna Chapman had done anything like this, chances are she’d have lasted about five minutes.

But it’s not just a part that trades on movie-star charisma, gym-honed elasticity and the kind of glaring stare that could make men twice her size think twice about having a go. Salt requires Jolie to act, initially as the demure, blonde-haired office jockey we first meet. Then, as the plot thickens, Jolie does a nice line in panic as Salt fears for the safety of her arachnologist husband (August Diehl, with a floppy-fringed makeover designed to eradicate any memories of his Inglourious Basterds SS officer), who goes conveniently missing at the same time as Salt is, potentially, activated.

It’s a shame, then, that the movie Noyce constructs around her isn’t quite as rewarding. His track record with CIA movies has been impeccable, with The Quiet American following on from the Jack Ryan double-bill of Patriot Games and Clear And Present Danger, but those films were all, by and large, grounded in the real world, with fairly plausible plot twists. And, despite the real-world intrusion which might give licence to the premise, the film itself is so littered with implausible plot twists, stunts and characters acting out of character that it’s all become a little daft even before we’re expected to buy into a sequence in which Jolie tries to pass herself off as a bloke. That the tone throughout remains deadly serious doesn’t help.

Noyce, directing large-scale action for the first time since Val Kilmer’s outing as The Saint, handles the more outlandish set-pieces, but is burdened by a need to humanise his heroine; a need that manifests itself in an unfortunate over-reliance on unintentionally hilarious flashbacks which show Salt, disguised as an improbably hot spider enthusiast, clumsily falling in love with Diehl, thus giving her a potential Get Out Of Jail Free card. And, admirable and brave though some of Noyce’s story choices are, it’s a lot easier to root for an adorable blonde who we think has been framed, than wrestle with our consciences while a cold-blooded, gun-toting brunette commits, or seems to commit, crimes against the state. For a while, Salt doesn’t have a protagonist it’s easy to get on side with. The consequence being there’s a black hole at the middle of the picture.

Happily, light manages to escape this particular black hole in the form of a third act revolving around a good, old-fashioned tussle between virtue and evil as loyalties waver and secrets are revealed. (Secrets that might not necessarily shock anyone who’s been paying a blind bit of notice, but secrets nonetheless.)

But, gaping flaws and all, at just 95 minutes Salt fairly races along (we suspect that there’s a whole DVD’s-worth of deleted material kicking around on a Culver City cutting-room floor), and while Noyce and Jolie bat breathlessly from explosion to car chase to shoot-out, there’s just about enough fun here to make a second helping of Salt a relatively palatable prospect.


Extras

Salt Salt
Released: 06 December 2010
Noyce commentary and featurettes come as standard; Blu-ray has ‘making of’ and trivia track.


Verdict
Enjoyable enough nonsense, even if it barely cracks a smile. It’s not exactly the female Bourne we were hoping for. Still, Noyce marshals the crunches and bangs well, and it zips along at a pace sufficient enough to keep the paranoia alive. Never entirely predictable — a bonus these days — it’s further confirmation of Jolie’s action goddess status.


Reviewed by William Thomas


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Salt
Empire Star Rating

HUH????

Didn't believe a word of this nonsense. And I usually like a good action movie. I presume the film went down like a proverbial lead balloon when they showed it over in Russia (if they did).....TWO STARS ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 16:26, 17 January 2013 | Report This Post


Salt

It doesn't offer anything groundbreaking, but Salt is short, fast, and action-packed. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 00:41, 07 July 2012 | Report This Post


Uninspired, Uninteresting Drivel

Salt is a monstrosity. The perfomances are weak and called-in, the setpieces are hilariously clich�, the script feels like it was written at knifepoint, the story is unbelievably hackneyed, and, above all else, the film doesn't actually make sense. Glaring plot holes, stupidly irritating supporting characters, and one of the most uninteresting heroines since Charlize Theron in Aeon Flux. Even the (nearly) always-watchable Angelina Jolie can't save this disasterpiece from stewing in its' o... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 09:13, 28 November 2011 | Report This Post


Jolie was solid as always and the story is good but overall the film was beyond bland and the reveal at the end concerning the main bad guy was insultingly obivious. What a missed op. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 18:17, 13 July 2011 | Report This Post


Jolie was solid as always and the story is good but overall the film was beyond bland and the reveal at the end concerning the main bad guy was insultingly obivious. What a missed op. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 18:17, 13 July 2011 | Report This Post


Almost gave it two stars!

Ridiculous plot, poor acting. How many times can we make her jump from one moving vehicle to another? I had to force myself to keep watching to the end. The payoff? A poorly thought through and possibly even more poorly performed "fight" in a helicopter to set up a sequel whch will hopefully never see the light of day. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by gyeates at 13:58, 05 July 2011 | Report This Post


please review the extended unrated cut

I would love to read your review (someone from empire) on the unrated extended cut (with the alternate final act) which for me is a complete movie unlike the travesti ending they filmed in almost four months after the movie was wrapped in hope for a series of Salt movies. For the dvd edition I would vote 4,3 out of 5 as it is almost perfect. for the original release maybe three stars is little but then again maybe four is too much I don't know. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by smakris04 at 16:49, 31 March 2011 | Report This Post


2 STARS

DAFT PLOTTING, FAR-FETCHED. PRETTY AVERAGE OVERALL, BUT JOLIE DOES HER UTMOST... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chrisdagnall at 23:57, 12 March 2011 | Report This Post


Excellent. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by reminn at 10:39, 14 December 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Not too bad

If u want to see a typical spy movie with the usual twists and turns, but the protagonist being female, then this is the film for you. Anjelina Jolie doesn't stray too far from the action/spy genre (Lara Croft; Mr. & Mrs. Smith; Wanted) but thats because she does it so well and her performance in Salt doesn't disappoint. However the ending was rushed and a bit of a let down compared to the other parts of the film. A solid 3 stars. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jeevan Singh at 15:22, 04 December 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Salt

Director: Noyce Screenwriter: mmer Starring: a Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski, August Diehl Synopsis When CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Jolie) has been accused of being a Russian spy, she goes on the run to clear her name. Review Tagline: “Who is Salt?”, and then in big lettering: “ANGELINA JOLIE”. That is what the poster of the new Jolie film says, so you assume that the mystery is already solved. Not quite, but if you are familiar with films l... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 16:59, 08 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Not too bad

I think you have given this film waaaaaaayyyyyyy more credit than it deserves with your review! I thought you were describing a different film. You should have written the script ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 19:43, 02 September 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Not too bad

Like The Bourne Identity, Nikita and The Manchurian Candidate all rolled into one, Salt is a fast and furious action thriller which has a plot that keeps you guessing throughout. Unfortunately it gets more and more absurd as it goes along and while the constant changing of Salt’s supposed allegiance and motives was a brave idea, it ends up becoming annoying and it’s impossible to care for her. There’s hardly any actual character developement and it seems to me that huge chunks of the movie we... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 21:04, 01 September 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Not too bad

What a lazy script. The 3rd act "twist" was given away too early. As soon as Orlov (?) mentioned that the undercover agents are EVERYWHERE for the third time in 10 minutes I knew that Schreiber was one of them.   All in all enjoyable nonsense. ... More

Posted by grucl at 08:23, 30 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Not too bad

Evelyn Salt(Angelina Jolie) is a CIA agent and highly respected by all, including her boss, Ted Winter(Liev Schreiber). Out of the blue, a Russian spy walks into their offices and offers a vital piece of information: the President of Russia will be assassinated during his forthcoming visit to New York City to attend the funeral of the recently deceased U.S. Vice President. The name of the assassin: Evelyn Salt. Concerned about the safety of her husband, who she cannot contact, she ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by evil bill at 20:14, 29 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Not too bad

This would have worked better for me if they had actually turned it on its head and made Jolie the baddie, for a few minutes i thought this maght actually happen and good old Liev would save the day and kick Jolie's ass . . . but no, Liev seems to be destined to be "bad guy you never suspect" for the rest of his career. This was half decent, the male disguise and the lift shaft scene were ridiculous though ... More

Posted by musht at 01:21, 29 August 2010 | Report This Post


Salt

This wasn't as good as I thought it would be, but it was still pretty good to be honest.  ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Lynchie at 23:22, 26 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Saw that coming.

Maybe he was Russian too! The kind of film where they make it up as they go along ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 19:13, 26 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Saw that coming.

And another thing that annoyed me..... **********SPOILERS***************** Couldn't the ending have been prevented if they just waited for the President to wake up.........? ******************************************************* ********* ... More

Posted by Shifty Bench at 18:14, 26 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Saw that coming.

L: Timon It was nowhere near as clever as it thought it was and if you cast Liev Schreiber, there's always a good chance he's going to be the bad guy. Plus Jolie disguised as a man was one of the most unintentionally funny scenes of the year. 3/5 nyone else notice how she spookily looked like a brunette version of her dad..?  ... More

Posted by Gretzky at 17:12, 24 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Saw that coming.

L: Wild about Wilder Worse than Clark Kents glasses? e.Far worse ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 16:36, 24 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Saw that coming.

Worse than Clark Kents glasses? ... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 13:51, 24 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Saw that coming.

Worst disguise in a movie possibly ever!!!!! The main problem is the writers,who thought they were clever,were idiots.Plotline is dire. All this in a film which is serious,and serious about being nonsensensical! ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 11:15, 24 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Saw that coming.

It was nowhere near as clever as it thought it was and if you cast Liev Schreiber, there's always a good chance he's going to be the bad guy. Plus Jolie disguised as a man was one of the most unintentionally funny scenes of the year. Still, it was an enjoyable enough thriller, and if they tone down the twists and turns that anyone who has ever seen a spy film saw coming a mile away, I wouldn't be against the idea of Salt II: Ready Salted. 3/5 ... More

Posted by Timon at 10:45, 24 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Saw that coming.

Films do not need twists. loses 2 stars one for Wimmer one for Noyce. Sod it. one for Jolie. ... More

Posted by oui3d at 10:19, 24 August 2010 | Report This Post


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