The question “who is Salt?” may not be as full of mystery as any still being asked with “Inception,” but it’s time to start a new week with a discussion of a new major film release. And I couldn’t drag myself to that future film studies staple “Ramona and Beezus,” so the latest Angelina Jolie vehicle it is. Anyway, that “Inception” post is still there for anyone else ready to tackle it. As for “Salt,” what can we possibly say about it, even with the allowance for SPOILERS?
There’s the matter of gender and action flicks, which is especially relevant for a few reasons. One, Jolie replaced original star Tom Cruise, and therefore some — though seemingly not much — of the script was altered to fit a female protagonist. Two, at one point Jolie’s character disguises herself, with facial prosthetics, as a military man — though not well enough to make me certain she was supposed to be male or instead just a masculine military woman (this story about her tricking her son tells me of the true intent, I guess). And three, with Hollywood so busy these days trying to pitch so many projects as “the female ‘Bourne Identity,'” there’s no reason we can’t talk about the general issue of how gender plays into the overall conceptualization and selling of certain films.
And I’m obviously guilty of focusing on the sexuality of “Salt,” just as so many other writers are. The thing is, had Cruise been the star of this movie it would not be of as much interest to the media. It’s like the whole, “wow, ‘The Hurt Locker’ was made by a woman” thing. And as it’s ridiculous to act amazed that women direct action movies (a number of them do), it’s also weird to be still displaying astonishment at the idea of a female action hero after all these years. Not that the film tries to be all that sexually ambiguous, either. Jolie’s character uses pantyhose, a maxi pad and hair coloring to her feminine advantage, as Vulture points out. It also apparently saved us from having to sit through yet another trite damsel-in-distress situation involving the spouse. I liked that the husband execution brought us fully forward into “Bourne Supremacy” territory instead of “Mission: Impossible III.” I think it also probably allowed more for that sequel-set-up ending.
So is the discussion of “Salt” all about Jolie being a female action hero and what that means for the good or bad of feminism, or does her gender not matter and this is a big game changer for women? I don’t think even the film’s producer is sure, as shown in this contradictory statement from a very typical article about Jolie “paving the way”:
“It’s definitely unusual that a female has become an action star,” Salt producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura says. “But it’s a funny thing. She’s not a female action star; she’s an action star. She’s really the first female to transcend gender. I don’t think it’s occurred before.”
I guess it fits with the actual main idea of the movie — besides the fortuitously relevant idea of hot Russian spies, that is — of not knowing or trusting any one side. What mainly had me going with “Salt” was the idea that its plot is laid out in a way that keeps the audience guessing. It may not be as freshly structured as a “Memento” or even a “Bourne Identity,” both of which work with the protagonist’s not being aware of anything more than the film viewer. But we certainly aren’t privy to what Evelyn Salt’s true identity, allegiance or plan is until she’s ready to reveal these things to the people on screen. And there is the surprise of finding out things along with her. Well, some people seem to have foreseen the twist at the end, but I hadn’t really thought of it. I guess I was too busy appreciating that Liev Schreiber was on the opposite side of the table from his character in the “Manchurian Candidate” remake.
But nobody is going to care about whether or not even in the end Jolie’s character is good or bad (doesn’t she kill a whole lot of innocent people?). So I welcome any talk of the gender thing, and leave you with some quotes that you may hopefully avoid in your discussion:
“It’s a Hollywood rendition of ‘anything you can do, I can do better,’ and here at ForbesWoman, we wholeheartedly agree.”
Better, though? Hollywood & Women settles for “Salt – Anything You Can Do I Can Do Equal”
So what are your thoughts on the movie? Spout about it below.