Salt: The Director's Cut (2010)
Director Phillip Noyce is no stranger to the thriller genre having made several competent examples such as Dead Calm, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Therefore, I was expecting a professionally crafted action film, when I recently purchased Salt on Blu-ray. However, it soon became apparent that Salt had suffered the usual indignities of studio interference during the course of its production, as there are three versions of the movie on the disc. The PG-13 theatrical version suffers from the usual ratings issues, so I chose to ignore it. The Extended cut includes new and alternative scenes as well as the violence restored but I felt it appropriate that I watch The Director's Cut for the fullest version of the movie. Specific details regarding the differences between all versions can be found at movie-censorship.com
The Director's Cut of Salt is a stylish and gritty post Cold War thriller that benefits from a solid cast and imaginative writing. Initially written as a vehicle for Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie had the script re-tooled by writer Brian Helgeland to more suit her requirements. Yes, the plot is somewhat farfetched but I consider its grandiose storyline to be an asset rather than a fault. The theme of deep cover Soviet agents waiting for decades to cause havoc reminded me of Don Siegel's 1977 movie Telefon. Salt is certainly no more preposterous than the convoluted adventures of Jason Bourne. The editing is certainly superior to that franchise, for starters.
The movies greatest strength is the central performance by Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt. Is she a loyal CIA operative or really a double agent? The film keeps you guessing and more to the point, Jolie keeps the viewer caring. She also acquits herself extremely well during the action sequences which are not the customary CGI-fest you usually get these days. There are some very good physical effects sequences featured in the Director's Cut as well as some solid hand to hand combat. Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Eijofor provide robust support as investigating government agents without descending into caricature. Playing senior covert operatives can so often be subject to so much cliché.
Whenever Hollywood deviates from a standard formula and casts against established gender or racial stereotypes, such a decision can often overshadow a movie. Sometimes a need to justify this “difference” can even work its way into the screenplay. Salt avoids such stupidity and doesn't go to any length to crassly highlight the gender of its protagonist. It offers an entertaining one hundred minutes and includes all the standard tropes and memes one expects from this genre. The Director's Cut provides more narrative and plot development and is the most well rounded version of the movie. It certainly allows Angelina Jolie to do more than just perform her own stunt work and as such is the cut of the film I would recommend.