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A little cheese and a little whine

Film Log: Salt

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In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. For many, this symbolised the collapse of communism, the end of the cold war, and the beginning of a profound paradigm shift in what we then called East-West relations.

Not, however, for the writers of Salt, for whom the cold war is still going strong, the US is full of Russian agents, and Russia wants nothing more than to start a nuclear war. Despite its contemporary setting, the plot for this film could easily have been written in 1970 (in fact I daresay it was, several times).

The inciting incident is the eponymous Salt, a CIA agent, being accused of being a Russian sleeper agent and immediately going on the run, so that the whole thing has the feel of one of those Avengers episodes where it looks like Steed has gone rogue until, predictably, it turns out that Something Else is Going On. And indeed, this film really tries to be an action thriller in the James Bond / Avengers mold, with plenty of chases, shoot-outs and bad guys getting their comeuppance. To be fair, a certain economy of characterisation and suspension of disbelief is part of this genre. But there are limits, and this is a film which will help you locate exactly where they are as it galumphs through them.

The characters are so cardboard-cut-out that the DVD might as well come with a pair of scissors; and the incompetence of the CIA and Secret Service agents tasked with protecting the free world is so rampant that one can only assume they were recruited from the ranks of Dr Evil’s henchmen. When first accused of being a double agent, Salt is placed in an easily escapable situation which lacks even a single incompetent guard, and things go downhill from there as she takes out a whole tactical team with an improvised rocket launcher made from office supplies. There are moments when the bumbling becomes almost comic, and at times I found myself waiting for Frank Drebben to appear, but alas, he never did.

The drama of the ending (which, please God, was not the set up for a TV series that it looked like) depends on the unsympathetic Internal Affairs investigator taking a leap of faith about What Really Happened In The Presedential Bunker. This would be great, except that he can find out What Really Happened by Asking The President, who was there while it was happening. There was no need for an interrogation, no need for a leap of faith and, most urgently, no need to set up a sequel.

I would like to temper these critical remarks by saying something positive about the script, the acting or the action sequences, but these were banal, pedestrian and uninspired respectively. The best I can come up with is that at 00:49:56 there is a brief shot of an attractive extra in the crowd outside the Cathedral. Other than that I really can’t think of anything to recommend this film.

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Filed under: Film + TV

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My Bookshelf

The Golden Bough
The Value of Nothing
The Fire
A Wolf at the Table
Devil Bones

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