Review for Salt: Extended Edition
More and more films get multiple versions on a single Blu-ray disc these days. I’ve lost count of the reviews I’ve posted recently where I’ve slapped on a disclaimer confirming which version of the film I watched for the review. I usually select the extended version as it’s typically just the theatrical version, but with more stuff, so effectively I’m watching the theatrical version as well. I’m never compelled to watch the disc twice in short order. Recently, I picked up this ten-year-old action thriller called Salt, a rare action movie with a female lead even now, and it has not two, but three versions of the film on the same disc. And for once, I feel justified in watching the film three times. The Theatrical Version actually had some scenes altered and replaced for the Director’s Cut, and when it comes to the Extended Version, that actually has a different ending.
Theatrical Cut (99:59)
Director’s Cut (104:04)
Extended Edition (101:04)
Two years ago, petroleum executive Evelyn Salt was in prison in North Korea, suspected of being a spy, and it took a herculean, and public effort by the man who would become her husband, Mike Krause to get her released in a prisoner swap. It turns out that the Koreans weren’t mistaken, as the petroleum company is a front for the CIA, and Evelyn Salt is a top field agent, or actually she was, as she’s now about to take a desk job to spend more time with her husband.
That’s when a Russian defector walks in offering vital information about an assassination planned for the upcoming visit of the Russian president. He also spins an unlikely story about Soviet era sleeper agents planted in the US as children. But when he names Evelyn Salt as one of those agents, it’s something the CIA have to take very seriously. Fearing for her husband’s safety, Evelyn Salt has no option but to escape and go on the run.
Salt gets a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc with the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English, German, and Japanese, and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Hindi and Turkish, and 2.0 Surround English Audio Descriptive, with subtitles in these languages and Dutch. The transfer is excellent, crystal clear, with great detail. Contrast is good, the colours are consistent, and black levels are solid. This is an odd film, right from the heart of that period where orange and teal were prevailing in action movies, but most such movies looked summer hot with that colour timing, Salt actually looks winter cold with its orange and teal. The audio is excellent, as immersive and resounding as you would want from an action movie, with explosions and gunfire galore, but the all important dialogue remains clear throughout. The music serves the story well, keeping up the tension and driving the pace, but I can’t remember any of it to be honest.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray case, with some nice artwork on the inner sleeve. The disc boots to an animated menu, where you are offered some BD Live content and Movie IQ downloaded trivia while you’re watching the movie; that’s if the servers are still on 10 years down the line.
There are quite a few extras to go with the three versions of the film.
Spy Cam: Picture in Picture only goes with the theatrical version. There are no subtitles so you’ll have to go into your player settings and turn bitstream off and secondary audio on.
There is a Filmmaker’s Commentary from director Phillip Noyce, and I think it’s the same on all three versions.
The Ultimate Female Action Hero lasts 8:05.
The Real Agents lasts 12:33.
Spy Disguise: The Looks of Evelyn Salt lasts 5:26.
The Modern Master of the Political Thriller: Phillip Noyce lasts 9:15.
False Identity: Creating a New Reality lasts 7:14.
Salt: Declassified runs to 29:47.
Finally there is “The Treatment” Radio Interview with Phillip Noyce, which lasts 27:12.
Talk about having PTSD triggered. Salt begins with a secret agent being tortured in a Korean prison, before being swapped in a prisoner exchange. I didn’t need Madonna caterwauling over the opening credits to have flashbacks to Dire Another Day. Fortunately, Salt isn’t the worst Bond movie ever made. It’s actually pretty good, if you can swallow a couple of eye-roll invoking moments.
It’s a pretty smart thriller, playing with the idea of deep, long term sleeper agents threatening world peace. The idea that the Soviet Union put in place assets that will pursue its interests, even after the USSR had ceased to exist is certainly provocative, although you have to imagine a Russia where the president isn’t a poster child for the former Communist state.
The film plays its cards pretty close to its chest too, although unfortunately the blurb on the back of the case isn’t quite as circumspect. I was lucky; I managed to ignore the case text, and went into the movie without knowing much about it at all. Once the defector points the finger at Salt, and once she goes on the run, the viewer is left to determine her motives from her actions, and the film keeps you guessing right until the end as to whether she’s the hero or the villain of the story; although obviously as the protagonist you do root for her, even if it’s with a question mark in the back of the mind.
Salt is also a refreshing action movie that has a female protagonist that looks more than capable of handling much that the world throws at her. We often hear talk about changing Bond’s gender or ethnicity, but Salt takes the simple solution of creating a new and different spy character. She’s smart, she’s capable, she’s resourceful, and she has the moves to back that up. The action sequences in the film are impressive and really well choreographed, particularly the hand to hand combat set pieces. There are just a couple of moments that threw me out of the movie, a couple of vehicle to vehicle jumps, stunts obviously enhanced by CGI, and the taser driving sequence. I won’t spoil it; you’ll know it when you see it.
As for the other versions, the Director’s Cut has some extended and alternate scenes, which in a positive sense adds some character development and back story, but in a negative, explicitly telegraphs a plot twist just before its reveal. It also adds a coda in voice-over that practically demands a sequel. The Extended Version on the other hand actually pushes that self-same plot twist almost to the end of the movie, making it a lot more effective, and setting up a coda starkly different from the one in the theatrical and director’s cut versions.
Salt is a decent action thriller that is well worth seeking out. I certainly wish the character had had more outings over the years, and not just three versions of the same film, as in Evelyn Salt, the creators had an engaging and charismatic character that owned the screen. The film really does provoke thought, although it does push credulity a little too hard at times to be thought of as a genuine classic. But it is still a great way to spend a couple of hours, and it gets great presentation on this Blu-ray disc. There are three versions of the film, different enough to make all of them worth watching at least once and you get such a rich suite of extra features that you can lose yourself in this one disc for days.