In the world of secret spy films you have James Bond, Jason Bourne and…countless other male leads that probably also have the same initials of J and B. So it only natural that a film about another male spy be released…at least that was the initial plan. After a series of rewrites and leading men dropping in and out of the picture, Salt eventually found its star: Angelina Jolie. Of course a rewrite was in order but the film did eventually happen—much to Sony’s financial pleasure as it went on to make nearly $300 million worldwide. While it wasn’t the smashing success most had hoped or envisioned (especially from the fast paced and thrilling looking trailers), it was still yet another staple in Jolie’s action film belt.
Angelina Jolie stars in Columbia Pictures’ Salt, a contemporary espionage thriller. Before becoming a CIA officer, Evelyn Salt (Jolie) swore an oath to duty, honor, and country. She will prove loyal to these when a defector accuses her of being a Russian sleeper spy. Salt goes on the run, using all her skills and years of experience as a covert operative to elude capture, protect her husband, and stay one step ahead of her colleagues at the CIA.
Things to keep in mind while watching Salt: Jolie changes appearances almost as often as she switches side in this film and what you may perceive as plot holes are actually plot twists and what you think is clever story telling is actually a few plot holes. The film is kind of a nice mindless romp for the most part and once you try to dissect or recall details about it you may as well just call it a day. The time between when I’d first seen this film to the time I got this Blu-ray wasn’t that long but it still was enough time to make me forget about what the hell the movie was actually about—mix that in with the extended/directors cut on this disc and I was very confused by the time I finished my second viewing (the second being the Extended cut). The third (Director’s Cut) was even more clear—although unlike other films that you have to watch more than once to fully appreciate and understand (Inception), Salt requires multiple viewings simply because of how slipshod the writing is, not because of how sharp or poignant it is.
But it is really stupid and fun entertainment; I mean I like to watch mindless flicks on occasion so this film does fit the bill for those times. However its main downfall is it attempts to be smarter than it really is; the Bourne films succeeded because of the mystery revolving around his survival and who he was. In Salt she knows who she is even if the rest of us are completely clueless as to where her true loyalties lie. I will say that the good ol’ Russian spy angle was a good one (and timely as of this film’s release—although I have to say this film portrays them as much more adept than the Geek Squad rejects that we got in real life) to rekindle those warm anti-Russian sentiments that drove so many Cold War films to theaters (and still does), but it ultimately was too convoluted of a story to really sink your teeth into.
While the theatrical cut could perhaps be extended into a series should they see fit, the extended/director cuts on this disc paint a much more final picture of Salt’s life and career. Truthfully they aren’t all that much different in the end, other than the deaths of some people are added or re-arranged, but you do get more of a sense of finality and completeness with the Director’s Cut. The “Extended” cut is really just the Theatrical cut with some of the Director’s Cut bits spliced in, while the Director’s Cut is the more complete package; why they even included the Extended Cut is beyond me, but just something else to fill up the disc space I suppose. Some of the new scenes help add to some completeness to the characters, but overall it’s nothing that really and truly improves greatly on the film—it’s still the same mishmash of confusion that it always was.
I’m probably being a little harsh on the film in the plot hole regard, but that’s only because I feel that it could have been a really rock solid film if they’d just tightened up the script or done away with some of the double-cross elements. In some manners they felt truly inspired while others simply just came off as by-the-book; it was this clash of types (well scripted vs. cookie cutter) that really hurt the film most. It wanted to the surprise the audience on one hand while delivering to them what they expected all along in the other. Still a fun ride, but not something that makes you want to come back for seconds.
Overall Salt is something that’s best tested out with a Rental first. It’s a lot of fun to watch but after three (well, four with commentary) viewings, I think I’ve had more than enough of this film to last me a lifetime.
Salt finds a home in a standard single disc Elite Blu-ray case—and that’s it, really. No DVD copy, no digital copy…nothing. Kind of an odd “Deluxe Edition” release when that’s all we get in the set, but good enough I suppose—especially since it comes with a $5 off other Blu-ray’s coupon (valid through 3/31!) inside.
Moving onto the AVC encoded 1080p 2.40:1 transfer we get the usual flawless presentation out of Sonyh. The majority of the film oozes detail out of all of the frames, boasting plenty of detail in the myriad of sequences that range from city to dark and dank interrogation rooms. On top of that we have plenty of detail on character faces and the like. The audio matches the visual presentation with incredible dexterity. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix thuds and booms at every turn, spreading the love around to all of the surrounds and making full use of the LFE output. There’s a lot of tension to be had in this film and the films rapid pace combined with the wonderful score and cornucopia of sound effects made it a definite pleasure to listen to. Plenty of surround and subwoofer work from start to finish—you don’t realize how non-stop it is until you hit the occasional quiet moment (usually a flash back) and then when it’s back to guns blazing you realize just how obnoxious this movie can sound at times. But that’s a popcorn flick for you—loud and obnoxious but still a good time.
The Ultimate Female Action Hero
The Real Agents
Spy Disguise: The Looks of Evelyn Salt
The Modern Master of the Political Thriller: Phillip Noyce
False Identity: Creating A New Reality
“The Treatment” Radio Interview with Phillip Noyce
Unrated Filmmakers’ Commentary
Unrated Extended Filmmakers’ Commentary
Spy Cam: Picture-in-Picture
The featurettes total up to a little over forty minutes in length, but the real highlight are the aforementioned various cuts of films and the commentaries that accompany them. Or, rather, the one commentary that is split up between the three; the commentary itself is the same, but tailor fitted to each track to include discussion over particular bits that were added/tweaked. With taking the commentary into account we have over two hours of extras to look at here, which is nothing to sneeze at—especially considering we get some pretty decent behind the scenes action to look at, as well as discussion with Jolie herself in regards to the character she plays in terms of physical appearance and the background of the character.
Overall it’s a Recommended disc as its loud and brash and just a really good time to have. If you enjoy the film even the slightest bit the extras are worth checking out, so be sure to check it out and stuff it in a few stockings this holiday season.
Salt: Deluxe Unrated Edition arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on December 21st.