Salt appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This wasn’t the most stunning transfer I’ve seen, but it usually looked fine.
My only minor complaints related to sharpness. While most of the movie displayed good clarity and delineation, a few shots seemed a wee bit undefined. Still, those didn’t become major concerns, so the majority of the flick exhibited positive clarity and delineation. I witnessed no problems with shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes never became a presence. Of course, one wouldn’t expect print flaws from a brand-new big-budget like this, and the image remained as clean as I anticipated.
In terms of palette, Salt usually went with the standard chilly blue tint that dominates modern action flicks. The colors occasionally became a bit warmer, but not with any frequency. Across the board, the hues seemed fine for a movie with this one’s design parameters. Blacks appeared deep and dense, while low-light shots delivered good clarity. Though not a consistently stunning presentation, I felt satisfied with the image.
Even greater pleasures came with the film’s rock’em, sock’em DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. As expected, the mix boasted a nearly constant level of activity. With gunfights, vehicle chases, explosions and all sorts of other mayhem, the audio got plenty of chances to shine, and it did so well. All five channels kicked into high gear on a frequent basis, and the elements fit together neatly. The track added a lot of excitement to the presentation.
Audio quality seemed solid. Speech consistently appeared concise and distinctive, while music offered good range and clarity. Effects dominated the proceedings and added a lot of zing to the mix. Those elements came across as full and powerful, without distortion or problems. This was an “A”-leve track for a big Hollywood action flick.
Salt packs a pretty full roster of extras. First of all, it includes three different versions of the film. In addition to the theatrical cut (1:39:59), the disc provides an “Unrated Extended Cut” () and an “Unrated Director’s Cut”. For my review, I went with the last one; hey, if it’s allegedly the director’s preferred version, it seems like the way to go.
Though I saw the theatrical cut, uh, theatrically, my aging brain doesn’t remember details well enough to specify all the alterations. However, I’m pretty sure the UDC includes more flashbacks to aspects of Evelyn’s earlier life. It also throws in an alternate scene that the director discusses in his commentary – a pretty brutal sequence that pushes the envelope but does ratchet up the emotional content – and a somewhat different ending. I like the theatrical version, but the UDC offers a bit more depth and feeling.
Alongside the theatrical cut of the film, we find an audio commentary from director Phillip Noyce. He provides a running, screen-specific chat – sort of. While Noyce clearly watches the movie as he speaks, he tends toward remarks that don’t directly address the on-screen action; much of the time, the track more closely resembles an audio essay, as Noyce obviously works from prepared notes. He also occasionally involves additional participants; we find brief notes from music editor Joe E. Rand and visual effects supervisor Robert Grasmere. The commentary looks at what led Noyce to the project, casting and adapting the screenplay for a female lead, sets and locations, alternate sequences, realism and current events, research, stunts and effects, sound and music, the reaction in Russia, working with Angelina Jolie, and a smattering of additional topics.
When Noyce launches the commentary with thoughts about 1944 and his father’s work as a spy trainer, you know you’re in for something unusual. Indeed, the director provides an abnormally thoughtful and engaging view of the film. He digs into a mix of interesting topics and makes sure that we’re constantly entertained and informed. I really like this excellent discussion; it’s one of the best commentaries I’ve heard in a while.
Another running piece arrives via the ”Spy Cam” Picture-in-Picture Track. This delivers a mix of behind the scenes footage, storyboards and pre-viz, and interviews. We hear from Noyce, Grasmere, producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, costume designer Sarah Edwards, production designer Scott Chambliss, second unit director/stunt coordinator Simon Crane, and actors Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber.The “Spy Cam” covers changes to the script, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, costumes, makeup and production design, research, stunts and action, and a few other related thoughts.
After an excellent commentary, “Spy Cam” seemed destined to disappoint – and it does, though not due to redundancy. Instead, “Spy Cam” offers a mediocre piece mostly because the information pops up sporadically, and when it does show up, it often comes across as less than insightful. Overall, we do get a decent look at the movie, but “Spy Cam” lacks the consistency necessary to make it a real success.
Six featurettes follow. The Ultimate Female Action Hero goes for eight minutes, five seconds and includes remarks from Noyce, Di Bonaventura, Schreiber, Crane, Jolie, Edwards and producer Sunil Perkash. “Hero” discusses Jolie and her work on the film. Some of this offers decent thoughts about her side of the production, but a lot of it simply praises Jolie. That makes it a mixed bag.
During the 12-minute, 33-second The Real Agents, we hear from former Major General in the 1st Chief Directorate of the KGB Oleg Kalugin, former CIA intelligence officer and expert on counterterrorism Melissa Boyle Mahle, and executive director of the International Spy Museum/former CIA Senior Operations Officer Peter Earnest. They talk about their experiences in the spy business. This becomes a quick but enjoyable look at the fact behind the film’s fiction.
We learn about visual choices in Spy Disguise: The Looks of Evelyn Salt. It runs five minutes, 26 seconds and features Jolie, Edwards, Noyce, hair stylist Colin G. Jamison, and prosthetic makeup designer Kazuhiro Tsuji. “Disguise” looks at the hair, makeup and costumes used to transform the Salt character through the film. It delivers a tight little investigation of those elements.
Expect more about the director with the nine-minute, 15-second The Modern Master of the Political Thriller: Phillip Noyce. It offers remarks from Noyce, Jolie, Di Bonaventura, Schreiber, Perkash, Chambliss, Crane, Edwards, and actor Chiwetel Ojiofor. We learn a little about Noyce’s lifelong fascination with the spy genre and his behavior as director. We already hear about the former in the commentary, so the latter becomes the main “new” component. We do get a few decent details along the way, but mostly this feels like a love letter to Noyce.
False Identity: Creating a New Reality lasts seven minutes, 14 seconds and focuses on notes from Grasmere. He leads us through a tour of the film’s visual effects as we see the scenes involved and how they executed the elements. Grasmere stays on target and helps create an educational piece.
Finally, Salt: Declassified fills 29 minutes, 47 seconds and provides statements from Jolie, Di Bonaventura, Ejiofor, Noyce, Schreiber, Perkash, Earnest, Kalugin, Mahle, Jamison, Tsuji, Chambliss, Grasmere, Crane, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, former Director of Communications for Homeland Security Kirk Whitworth, composer James Newton Howard, and actor August Diehl. This one looks at script topics and what led Noyce to the project, cast, characters and performances, thoughts about spies in real life, costumes, makeup and hair, sets and locations, effects, stunts and action, and music.
With almost half an hour at its disposal, I hoped to get something good from “Declassified”. Objectively, it’s a perfectly competent show, though one with a promotional bent. Unfortunately, as the last featurette on the disc, it largely feels unnecessary. We’ve already heard most of the info elsewhere; you’ll see many of the same interview clips in other places. Independently, “Declassified” works fine, but if you’ve already watched the other programs, you can safely skip it.
More audio from the director comes to us via a 27-minute, 12-second Radio Interview with Phillip Noyce. Aired on KCRW’s The Treatment, host Elvis Mitchell chats with Noyce about many of the same topics found in the commentary, though Noyce also gets into some additional thoughts about how his past influences his work. He also discusses the film he hopes to be his next project. If you've already listened to the commentary, you won’t find a lot of new material here, but it’s still a good conversation.
A few ads open the disc. We get clips for The Tourist, The Green Hornet, Takers and Easy A. Under Previews, we find additional promos for Red Hill, Eat Pray Love, The Other Guys and Ticking Clock.
Angelina Jolie reinforces her status as Movie Badass Babe #1 with the exciting Salt. Though the story often threatens to derail due to absurdity, it stays on course and keeps us entertained. The Blu-ray delivers solid picture and audio along with supplements highlighted by a terrific audio commentary. I feel pleased with this release, as it complements a fun summer action flick.