There was a time when I would pay to see Angelina Jolie movies in the theatre, even though I knew they would be awful, just for the privilege of basking in her glow. But Angelina has changed. Her movies have gotten worse (is it possible?), and her glow has dissipated. Salt is probably the worst movie I have seen in a long time; it was, in fact, the worst of six airplane movies I saw during my international Christmas holiday. That is pretty bad.
The tag line for the film was, "Who is Salt?" and I have to admit that, though I carefully watched the film, even rewinding and re-watching certain confounding scenes, I am still not sure. But not because the plot is complex and redoubling, like Primer's. The challenge here is that the screenwriting is lazy, and the plot is incomplete. At the film's start, Jolie is an American agent. She is hoping to go home to her adored husband at the end of a long workday, but is called in to interrogate a strange man, claiming to be a Russian spy. During the interrogation, he describes a plot in which a Russian agent will assassinate the Russian prime minister—on American soil. The name of the Russian agent? Eveyln Salt (Jolie). Strangely, she runs. She is chased. She blows some things up in order to get away. Action! Adventure! Explosions!
We have flashbacks. Jolie was an American child in Russia. Her parents were killed and she was taken in as a student at a spy academy and sent back to America to be a double agent. But when the time comes to kill the prime minister, she doesn't do it, only injecting him with a spider's poison, which makes him appear dead for a few days. And so, has she double-crossed Russia? Or are we at triple-crossing now? I am not sure. The film ends with her running through the woods, chased by an American helicopter she has just jumped out of. Where is she running, and what is her plan? Did she truly love her strange, arachnophilic husband, whom we discover in flashback that she had courted intentionally from the start, as a cover? We don't know. Nor do we care.