Saturday afternoon, Elvira and I ended up watching Salt, because Elvira was sick and we were in the mood for a mindless action movie. Despite having low expectations, I was still disappointed, because buried under the seven layer dip of mediocrity that is your standard Hollywood action movie, Salt had a really intriguing conceit.
For those who haven’t seen the movie *Spoilers!* A high ranking Russian operative defects to the CIA and informs them that 30 years ago, the Soviets sent a couple dozen brainwashed Russian kids over to the US and embedded them in a deep cover mission: to grow up thinking they were Americans, insinuate themselves into high places, like the CIA and the government in general, and then, when the stars were aligned (or a black man was elected into the White House) the sleeper agents would awake, call each other comrade fifty dozen times and then start WW III. For some reason. Why the Soviets wanted to start WW III is left a mystery (I fell asleep half way through and woke up in time for the last act so for all I know, Act 2 was an extended discourse on Materialist Eschatology. Let’s assume this was the case because nothing is more likely than an American Action Movie stopping half way through for a thirty minute lecture by Slavoj Žižek on the death of the Big Other) Anyway. Vodka swilling Soviet Marxist Nihilists have infiltrated the Government! oh no! And Angelina Jolie is one of them! Say it ain’t so, Angie!
So it’s basically the Manchurian Candidate played as a long con, but really all that is thrown out the window so that we can have a bog standard bullet fest. Which is a shame because that’s a great concept that could have been played out in two different but much more interesting ways.
1) Salt as Period thriller. It’s 1973 and a young, disillusioned CIA analyst discovers that the Soviets have dispatched dozens of sleeper agents to the US in order to undermine America — and he’s one of them! Shoot it in 70s new wave-inspired cool thriller mode, like Boys from Brazil. The only hurdle is finding someone who can pull off the young Michael Cain role.
2) Salt as Political Farce. Filter the concept through Doctor Strange Love. Flashback: 1991. The adolescent sleeper agents are all woken early and told that the Soviet Union has fallen and so the mission has been aborted. They’re all in their mid to late teens and disgruntled anyway but now they’re all pissed off because their great and secret purpose in life has been sideswiped by history. Some embrace their new freedom and 20 years later, have grown up to be bankers and yuppies. A few others though kept the the mission. They infiltrated the Government as ruthless young Republicans and have decided to start WW III as payback for robbing them of their reason to be.
Or you could just have Angelina Jolie run around for 2 hours doing ludicrous stunts and firing machine guns.