I hate it when people complain that a movie isn’t believable enough. My brother complained to me that he had a hard time buying the fact that in Inception, people could just enter dreams so easily. But sometimes movies just require to you to make a leap of faith into the story and if they work right, the story will take you from there. One element being out of the ordinary doesn’t invalidate everything else in the film.
I say all this while professing that Salt, the Bourne-wannabe, potential franchise starter starring Angelina Jolie, is a film that fails because it’s I can’t believe it. It’s stacks so many silly, unreal elements one on top of another that it simply cannot stand on its own.
Rarely can a movie be totally undone by one, unbelievable moment. But it can be said of Salt, in which the inciting incident is inherently flawed. I won’t go into spoiler territory; but I will say that, if the supposedly super-intelligent title character had managed not to be a total moron in the first act, everything would have been fine. Seriously.
I might be able to look past all of these flaws in the story, or even its flaws in action (one scene has Jolie’s tiny figure take out two men by literally shoulder-bumping them, sitting right next to them them in a car), but that’s complicated by Salt’s serious desire to be taken super seriously. An action movie can work without any serious weight to it (see the greatest action movie, Die Hard) but Salt is a movie that opens with a torture scene. A torture scene.
Angelina is dragged around a North Korean prison wearing nothing but underwear. Guards shout at her, accusing her of crimes against the state. She is beaten. That is the introduction to a movie that involves silly Cold War paranoia and plots to start World War III with something called “Day X.”
Salt sets out to be an intelligent thriller, and it gets a few things right, but it’s kind of dumb. It plays out like an airport read, upping conspiracies and crises but never taking a moment to admit to its incredible stench of cheese. The movie just cares too much about being important.
It’s nice, though, that Salt never treats its audience stupidly. It keeps moving and adding information, without ever slowing down to explain itself. It expects you to keep up and if you can’t, that’s your fault. And it certainly is a brisk movie, never forcing you to spend too much time with the story’s silly, unbelievable moments.
Following Despicable Me and Inception, I was hoping Salt would prove to Hollywood that you don’t need a video game or obscure television series to launch a good movie. I still believe that’s true, but Salt is proof that originality doesn’t automatically make for a strong film.