Salt is a condiment present in almost any dish. It’s a basic ingredient in cooking that adds flavor. Sure it’s just one, simple, normal (even benign) flavor that cannot compare with other, more exotic and exciting spices like paprika or oregano (Sorry I don’t really cook and Filipino dishes hardly ever use those spices, so to me, they are exotic). Today, however, salt is a sign of poverty in our country. Those who cannot buy viands eat rice with salt–to give it flavor.

Look at it this way: salt is the only one thing that you really need  to add flavor (screw sugar). It’s basic, raw, and powerful. So is the movie Salt (directed by Phillip Noyce and written by Kurt Wimmer) starring Angelina Jolie, in what I think is one of her best roles and portrayals ever. But I’ve only watched her in Wanted, Tomb Raider, and Lara Croft so that’s not saying much. However, I stand by my assessment: she rocks this whole show like a one-woman orchestra.

WARNING: This is a sorta spolier-y review. I tried my best to leave out major spoilers about the plot, but I couldn’t stop myself from detailing my favorite scenes (and not-so-favorite ones) and expounding on why I liked the movie. If you have not seen the movie and do not want to be spoiled at all, better come back after you’ve seen it then feel free to agree or disagree with my opinion. 😉

To admit that she is brilliant and expound on it is a testament to how much I enjoyed her performance in this movie. I’m the sort of moviegoer who has a hard time separating the actor from the character. If I hate you in real life, I’ll lambast you on screen except if you’re really, truly, convincingly brilliant. In the Aniston-Jolie debacle I’m definitely on Team Jennifer and the fact that I acknowledge – even assert – that Angelina Jolie is just honestly brilliant in this film speaks volumes of how truly good she is.

See, I can’t even stop using the word brilliant to describe her (in this movie, at least).

Her Evelyn Salt is the epitome of the strong, intelligent, cunning, independent woman who knows how to love, be humane, get her way, and exact revenge. Forget about Lara Croft or Blair Waldorf (even though I love her, too); Evelyn Salt is the Alpha Female. What Evelyn Salt wants, she gets – decades-old government conspiracies be damned.

I think Jolie shined through because she is in her element in this movie playing a strong character, and the movie itself lets her shine. My best friend told me before I went to see it that she didn’t like the movie because the plot was predictable and too many questions were left unanswered. I forgot the exact words she used, but she described the movie that it was just a non-stop series of explosions, guns, and chasing.

I loved every minute of it.

Salt is a muse of the high-tension, fast-paced action flicks that are actually about tension, fast-pacing, and action. The tension was not contrived. I was riveted in my seat to see just what would happen. The pace was well-coordinated. There was a good interposing of high-strung highway chases as well as creeping through tunnels and corridors together with relaxed story-telling scenes. Come to think of it, nothing in the movie was really slow. Everything was evenly paced. And clocking at one hour and 45 minutes, Salt is fast.

Salt is an ode to that class of movies that tells the audience to stop thinking too hard for a while and just enjoy the show. And the visuals are breathtaking. I’m not talking about the usual crop of wide-angled shots that show a beautiful, sprawling landscape. No, I’m talking about the striking close-up shots of the actors and their eyes, with expressions that change every heartbeat. Every glare, glaze, and quiver is captured so magnetically on screen. What they say about people talking to each other with their eyes – you can see that on screen. However, I did like one particular medium shot of Salt in the interrogation room, in a scene during the earlier part of the movie. Salt’s wired nervousness could clearly be seen against the stark colors of the room and the stillness of the scene.

Ironic, however, that my favorite scenes in the movie are not the action sequences (which does not, in any way, take away from the latter’s superbness). My favorites are the dramatic ones, where Jolie really shows how competent an actor she is. The opening scene in the movie got me hooked. I felt curdles in my stomach, and my throat constricted with how she whispered. The use of the camera from a first-person point-of-view was also well-utilized.

Another favorite scene was also during the opening moments of the movie: when Salt is released and is walking towards freedom, and she sees the reason for her freedom. When her colleague tells her who the reason is, those seconds where her eyes turn from confused to astonishment to relief to love is gut-wrenching. Still, though, it wouldn’t be a good action movie if the action scenes were not up to par and my most favorite scene is when Salt finally kills her main nemesis. That intense cry and even more intense, utterly scary look of determination of her face coupled with the taut contortion of her body highlighted by the camera angle was just the most exhilarating scene of the movie for me. It encompassed what this movie was all about: Evelyn Salt’s inhuman strength due to her unshakeable determination to reach her end point. Angelina Jolie rocked this movie but she nailed that scene in particular. However, I do have to point out that this scene posted a failure in logic because if I were an agent and I was there when Salt did what she did, I wouldn’t have tried to stop her – I would have shot her immediately.

I think it’s a testament to how much I like this movie that I had to stop and erase so much while I was writing it because I kept using the word “brilliant” to describe the film and its aspects. Of course, that could also just point out my utter narrow vocabulary.

I would not say, however, that this film was perfect. A particular scene I hated was when they used stock images to describe President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. That was the only part of the movie that felt out of pace for me. I still liked Inception better, cinematically-wise, story-wise, and actor-wise. One thing in common about movies that I hated: the endings. I hate, hate open-ended finales. Maybe my hate stems from the fact that I’ve seen two movies that had open endings within a short span of time. Nabibitin ako. Though, I’ve read some theories that Inception wasn’t really open-ended at all (but that’s for another post). With Salt, you can just smell the opening wafts of a sequel. And you know what, I’d be excited to see that sequel. But I would cut a bitch if  they screw Peabody’s (yes, his first name was never mentioned, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) story; I can’t tell how they’d screw it because that would be a major spoiler.

All in all, I enjoyed Salt. I was emotionally invested in it, and it delivered. The story is nothing new – the themes are re-worked from previous stories, but it shapes them well. The notion of sleeper agents is a particularly overused theme, but Salt manages to still make it interesting. The plot is also very easy to follow, and particularly sharp eyes can see the twists coming, but it doesn’t really detract from the movie that much.

Salt (the ingredient) may just be basic and may even be a sign of inhuman poverty, but way back during the time of tribes and datus, salt was very valuable because it can easily add flavor to anything. Salt (the movie) brings back a taste of that rich, expensive culture of salt, and it does add that flavorful kick to the movie-going experience.