Friday, September 10, 2010

Movie Review: SALT is the new Bourne

Since Ms. Jolie is someone you are inclined to root for, and since she throws out a few damsel-in-distress bids for empathy amid all the smackdowns and chases, it’s hard not to think of her as one of the good guys. - A.O. Scott

Ms. Jolie is a LOT of fun to watch in this flick.  We see this long limbed, big lipped, sparkle eyed vixen in many guises, and it's hard not to stare. But try to keep your heads about you, people.

It's strange that in movies today the heroes are often revolutionaries busy with acts of revolution.  I mean they are often operating against the law, and often at a very high level, even against the government.  In such a movie milieu the police are the enemy.  Think about John and Sarah Connor in Terminator, Ripley in Aliens and Jake Sully [recently] in AVATAR - all defying the reigning status quo, and we cheer them on.

Without giving away any spoilers, the closest flicks we've seen to this are probably Bourne, The Matrix and James Bond. Bourne is the closest match, but SALT has a lot of the subversiveness [and the spy versus many spies] quality that we last saw following Neo in The Matrix. What's different is that in SALT the pace is supercharged, it's imaginative and somehow still realistic [okay, probable...alright, possible], but crucially here the hard as nails protagonist is a woman. Curiously, first choice for the role of SALT was Tom Cruise.  Audiences will be relieved Jolie took this role. Just as Ripley could not have been played by anyone other than Sigourney Weaver, Jolie is SALT. We last saw Jolie in this sort of role during the Tomb Raider franchise. This is much better.

It all happens in such a frenzy of momentum and on-the-fly exposition that some of the more preposterous elements in the story will strike you only in retrospect, after the helicopter leaps, the elevator-shaft daredevilry and the race-the-clock flirtation with thermonuclear war.- A.O Scott

In Gavin Hood's Wolverine we also saw the central action figure fighting internal demons in the iconic style of the biggest brooder in the business, Batman.  A hero that suffers from a degree of self-loathing is somehow not only more believable, but also all the better for overcoming their demons.  In SALT there's a sideshow of brooding flashbacks and uncertainty.  The character at times does not like herself or what she has to do, but she nevertheless performs with cold-hearted, perfectly calculated precision.  I don't use the Wolverine allegory carelessly - Liev Schreiber is back in this instalment with carefully measured confidence, the trademark of a man stewing in his own rage, and his brooding brew is perfect in SALT.

I am purposefully referring to other material to distract you from the SALT story.  Try to avoid the spoilers or any extensive plot summaries, because the long unravelling of the plot is part of the fun. More than likely we will see a new franchise, like Bond and Bourne, just blitzier, sexier and more visceral.

Score: 8/10
Read the New York Times Review.

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