Ultra HD: Worth a Look
4 Stars out of 5
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Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Movie Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Parental Guidance Suggested
Release Country: United States
COLLAPSE INFO -

Salt - Ultra HD Blu-ray

Review Date March 14th, 2016 by
Overview -

Boasting 2160p resolution at 128Mbps with the very best lossless audio, such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, UHD Blu-ray is finally here! But it’s important to keep in mind that this is still a brand new format, and for the moment, the content is fairly limited. There is also the fact that calibrating displays for enjoying the best picture quality possible is somewhat tricky since material in HDR10/WCG is not readily available. With that in mind, I did the best I could in calibrating my Sony Bravia XBR75X940C which is connected to the Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player. Achieving 98% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, the picture quality is astounding when the Full Array Local Dimming (FALD) feature is activated. Worth noting is that this particular display automatically switches to a setting called "HDR Video" when such content is detected, but I leave the color space in “Auto” and only switch between in Rec.709 and BT.2020 to determine the transfer’s color grade.

Still, my colleagues and I have come to the general consensus that we should hold the UDH format to a higher standard and be much more conservative with our video scores. Essentially, what would normally qualify as 5-star presentation in standard Blu-ray could hypothetically be thought of as a 3-star video on UDH BD. It is still a significant improvement and will be a better viewing experience, but with this new format, we are looking for more than just sharpness and resolution. Now, we must also take into consideration how the transfer benefits from the HDR/WCG upgrade, which complicates matters since not all movies are produced in native 4K or mastered with 4K digital intermediates (DI). What this all amounts too is our attempt and promise to provide our readers with the most honest and accurate assessments as possible as we enter this new format.

  • Editors Note

    Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the regular Blu-ray release of 'Salt.'

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Worth a Look
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  • Editors Note

    Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the regular Blu-ray release of 'Salt.'

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Two-Disc UHD Combo Pack,Region Free,BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc (BD only)
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    2160p HEVC/H.265
    Length:100
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Atmos
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentary
    PiP Track
    Alternate Version
    Featurettes
    Trailers
    Movie Studio: Columbia Pictures
    Release Date: March 1st, 2016

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

2.5 Stars out of 5

It was bound to happen. After decades of male domination in the action movie realm – from Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger to Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise – it was only a matter of time before a woman entered the fray and tried to create a character with as much style and staying power as James Bond and Jason Bourne. Well, who better to take a stab at crashing the boys club than Angelina Jolie? She's had some training, having walked a few miles in Indiana Jones' shoes as that sexy, intrepid tomb raider, Lara Croft, and kicked the skinny butts of both current squeeze Brad Pitt in 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' and James McAvoy in 'Wanted.' And let's face it, it doesn't hurt that she's arguably the most beautiful woman on the planet. So why not make the leap and measure her moxie against the big boys' egos and biceps? Flex those lips, Angelina, and show those macho men who's the boss!

Jolie walks the walk pretty damn well in Phillip Noyce's by-the-numbers 'Salt,' but has trouble talking the talk, thanks to a thankless screenplay by Kurt Wimmer (who asserted himself much better with the sleek, elegant 'Thomas Crown Affair' remake) that relies too heavily on action movie clichés and predictable plot twists. Though few actresses look as comfortable brandishing a weapon or engaging in hand-to-hand combat than Jolie, whose steely-eyed glare and feline agility make her a natural for this rough-and-tumble genre, her physical prowess can only take her so far. She may kick, punch, and fire away at the bad guys with ease, but can't overcome the clunky story and superhuman stunts that relentlessly sabotage her at every turn. If she (or the producers) hoped to spawn a franchise, I don't think they'll get their wish, because 'Salt' just doesn't possess the cachet that has distinguished other breakout formulas.

Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is a CIA operative who's fingered by a defector as a double agent intent on assassinating the Russian president, an act that would severely jeopardize U.S. security. Salt vehemently denies the charge, yet realizes her husband (August Diehl) could be a government target. In typical Hollywood fashion, she escapes the CIA's tight net and army of pursuers – led by Agent Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) – and tries desperately to find and shelter him. Such a path, however, plunges her deeper into a web of violence, espionage, and double crosses that makes us question her patriotism and motives. The requisite array of twists and turns, flashbacks and ambiguity, along with a series of over-the-top action sequences, keep the plot's engine churning, but it's all still rather dull. No matter how hard the filmmakers strive to ramp up tension and action, 'Salt' remains largely a one-note affair, lacking the emotional highs and lows necessary to fully engage the audience and suspend our disbelief.

Noyce, who was forging quite a promising career with such relevant and weighty films as 'The Quiet American' and 'Rabbit-Proof Fence,' takes a step backward with his first "big studio" picture in many years. Though his style remains classy and he makes the most of what he's given, the material just isn’t up to snuff. Noyce fashions some indelible images, but they're only memorable as snapshots, not key elements belonging to a greater whole. And while it's intriguing to see Jolie don a series of different guises to elude detection (the most outlandish – and creepy – of which is a male military officer), it's hard not to view her various looks as one big gimmick.

And then there are all those stunts. You gotta hand it to Jolie for having the guts to perform as many death-defying acts as she could, but the lion's share are so unrealistic they inspire not admiration but rather jaded head-shaking and cynical chuckles. Salt isn't supposed to be Spider-Woman (though her husband is an arachnologist and she carries one of his deadly specimens around with her, so who knows?!), but she certainly acts like her most of the time, leaping from a series of highway overpasses onto a succession of tractor-trailers, swooping multiple times across an elevator shaft, and emerging unscathed from a barrage of brutal collisions and confrontations. Unless she possesses the same instantaneous healing powers as Wolverine, it's impossible to explain her resiliency.

Jolie gives the role her all, yet despite her considerable talent and physical attributes, the character isn't interesting enough to sufficiently carry the film, let alone inspire a series of sequels. The first-rate supporting cast doesn't fare any better. Schreiber looks bored most of the time, and who can blame him? Add to that the fact that this Blu-ray includes two alternate versions of the film (an unrated director's cut and unrated extended cut) and it's pretty obvious no one involved with the production really had much of a clue as to how this assemblage of action scenes should turn out.

'Salt' is an enjoyable enough ride for fans of the genre, but it could use some pepper to spice itself up. Its preposterous plot ultimately turns silly, and the indestructible title character becomes more robotic as the film progresses. Though Jolie tries her best to break into the action movie boys club, I don't think she'll be getting a bid to that exclusive fraternity anytime soon.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Two-Disc UHD Combo Pack,Region Free,BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc (BD only)
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    2160p HEVC/H.265
    Length:100
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Atmos
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentary
    PiP Track
    Alternate Version
    Featurettes
    Trailers
    Movie Studio: Columbia Pictures
    Release Date: March 1st, 2016

Video Review

4 Stars out of 5

The super-secret spy turned homemaker and back again evades capture repeatedly on Ultra HD Blu-ray with an excellent HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10, boasting several demo-worthy moments along with a couple slightly less satisfying sequences. Shot on traditional 35mm film on a variety of cameras and later mastered in a 4K digital intermediate, from which we can safely assume this transfer is likely derived although with a new color grading. Compared to other UHD releases thus far, this one should serve as a great example of what can be accomplished with a higher resolution source and the possibilities of this new format on older non-digital productions.

Watching in the "HDR Video" setting and in the BT.2020 color space, the picture quality comes with a noticeable uptick in definition and clarity from its Blu-ray counterpart. It’s not always a night and day difference, with several scenes looking softer than others, but on the majority, viewers will be quick to note sharper lines and edges around cars, buildings and various office furniture. Even fast-paced actions sequences where fights and clashes can sometimes look like a blur, things remain sharp and detailed. The stitching on Salt’s many different outfits are distinct while the folds and creases of her black trench coat are unmistakable, and the fabric of the suits worn by the male cast is always apparent and salient. Facial complexions appear natural and stunningly lifelike, exposing individual pores, the tiniest wrinkles and negligible blemishes in both close-ups and medium shots. Poorly-lit interiors are equally revealing, showing every object, figurine and lettering inside a character’s home and every button, knob and switch inside the dark, cold offices are plainly visible from a distance.

Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the transfer showcases incredibly deep, full-bodied blacks throughout. Various gradational details are appreciable and plainly visible, allowing viewers to clearly make out the minor differences between every character's suits and see the faintest wrinkle in Salt's black coat. Even during poorly-lit interiors and the darkest portions of the frame, namely in the interrogation scene and when the President hides in the underground bunker, the smallest object, button and imperfection on the wall is easy to perceive and distinguish. Although much of the photography appears somewhat restrained, contrast is nonetheless spot-on and pitch-perfect with brilliant, glowing whites along the border of buildings and in the clouds. The sunlight in daylight sequences shimmers and gleams off the metallic, chrome edges of cars with impressive realism. Shot in a teal-orange palette, the picture doesn't show the sort of vivid array of colors we'd expect from the format, but primaries are nonetheless animated and often sumptuous, providing the cast with a nice, healthy glow. In the end, the espionage thriller arrives on UHD Blu-ray with a great 4K picture quality that offers a step up over its Blu-ray counterpart.

Audio Review

4.5 Stars out of 5

For this UHD Blu-ray release, Evelyn Salt comes out of hiding with an awesomely thrilling Dolby Atmos soundtrack that'll plunge viewers right into the middle of the action.

The jump up from its DTS-HD MA predecessor is fairly evident early on as the movie opens with our heroine being interrogated and tortured in some grimy, damp basement. The room fills with the sounds of water dripping, pipes clanking and the voices of actors reverberating off wet concrete walls. One of the best moments where the sound design really shines in the last third of the movie when Salt meets with the Russians at a shipyard. As characters walk inside the barge, voices echo, random noises ring and the creaks of metal expanding and contracting fill the room with incredible realism all around and above, creating an immensely satisfying dome effect. However, overheads appear more reserved for intense action sequences, such as when Salt is continuously making an escape and the crushing of metal, along with glass debris, the sounds are discretely heard flying everywhere. The sides and rears do the majority of the work with various ambient effects throughout the movie, generating a very pleasing and occasionally immersive soundfield.

Much of the activity and design is maintained in the fronts, taking full advantage of the added height channels. James Newton Howard's score most notably benefits from the extra space, spreading into the front overheads with excellent separation between the instrumentation, creating a half-dome effect that's highly engaging. Imaging feels incredibly expansive and spacious with superb channel balance and movement across the screen. As mayhem erupts during another of Salt's deceptive capers, the action sprawls like a wall of sound with the clatter and commotion of cars crashing into each other, bullets whizzing back and forth, and alarms singing panic exhibiting distinct, detailed clarity in the mid-range. Dialogue and whispered conversations are well-prioritized and always intelligible amid the dismay and noisy hysteria. The low-end is equally satisfying and wonderfully responsive, delivering some palpable weight to explosions and gunshots with notable authority. 

Special Features

4 Stars out of 5
  • Audio Commentary — Director Phillip Noyce sits down for an insightful and involving commentary that truly gets under the skin of 'Salt' and provides an insider's look at the making of this feature. Noyce talks about the genesis of his involvement with the film (which dates back to 1944, before he was even born!), the historical events that influenced it, and how Russians reacted to the movie. He also touches upon his own personal background and how it influenced his career, his ambiguous feelings toward video piracy, and his respect for the intricacy of music scores. He praises Jolie, examines a scene that was cut for budgetary reasons, and discusses the various endings in the alternate versions of the picture. A few special guests (most notably, the film's music editor and special effects supervisor) chime in with their perspective, adding an extra layer of expertise to the track. Intelligent and absorbing commentaries are a rarity these days, but this comprehensive effort is a credit to the format and well worth one's time.
  • Two Alternate Versions of the Film — Available only on the Blu-ray, an unrated director's cut and unrated extended version of 'Salt' are also included on the disc, and both provide quite a few differences from the theatrical version. Though the extended version runs only about a minute longer than its theatrical counterpart, a number of scenes and key plot points have been altered or rearranged, and the ending has been totally revamped. At times, it's almost like watching a completely different movie! The director's cut runs about four minutes longer, adding a little more meat to the characters and story. The ending looks the same as the theatrical version, but a voiceover puts an entirely different spin on the proceedings, all but killing the prospect of a 'Salt' sequel. (These alternate versions only hammer home the point that the producers didn’t know how to present 'Salt,' ultimately choosing the open-ended denouement and dumbing the MPAA rating down to PG-13 to get the most bang for their buck and the safest chance to build a franchise.) To more easily identify the differences between the various cuts, each can be played with a pop-up icon that signals when there's a change from the theatrical version - a clever touch, and one that's much needed in this particular instance.
  • Spy Cam — This picture-in-picture track just might be the best extra on the disc. When activated, this bonus view track displays a wealth of interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, sketches, storyboards, and digital mock-ups in a small pop-up window on the bottom-right of the screen while you watch the film. Noyce, Jolie, Schreiber, and other creative personnel discuss locations, costume design, stunts, visual effects, and analyze select characters in this immersive feature that's much more interesting than any of the supplements described above and below. The skip button on your remote will quickly take you to each installment, in case you don't want to re-watch the entire movie in this mode.
  • SALT: Declassified (HD, 30 min) — A typical making-of account, this lengthy featurette covers the various aspects of production – casting, set design, stunts, etc. – and includes interviews with all the corresponding personnel. We learn the script was originally written for a man and substantial changes were necessary to transform it into a female vehicle, and that the far-fetched plot is perhaps closer to reality than one might think. Though the pace is swift, substance comes at a premium, and this mini-documentary gets tedious pretty quick.
  • The Treatment (HD, 27 min) — Host Elvis Mitchell interviews the director of 'Salt,' who discusses his attraction to the project, how he hoped to ground this "fantastical story" in minutia that's realistic, his lifelong interest in spy stories, the influence a traveling circus had on him as a boy growing up in rural Western Australia, and some of his past and future endeavors. Noyce is a highly articulate subject and his remarks are quite interesting and well worth a listen.
  • The Real Agents (HD, 12 min) — Three former intelligence agents (two from the CIA and one from the KGB) talk about how they were recruited, a typical day on the job, the fears and dangers that plagued them, the use of disguises, and adjusting to a normal life after their service in this slick and informative featurette.
  • The Modern Master of the Political Thriller (HD, 9 min) — Jolie, Schreiber, and others praise their director and his myriad talents in this breezy piece. His rhythm with actors, attention to detail, and penchant for realism are all examined, and though Noyce repeats some of the information from his radio interview (see above), this featurette presents it in a flashier style.
  • The Ultimate Female Action Hero (HD, 8 min) — Noyce and his production crew salute Jolie and her 150% commitment to the rigors of her role. The interviewees talk about the rarity of a female action hero who "kicks ass," and examine the different fight styles used in the film. They also discuss Jolie's willingness to perform her own stunts, and quite a bit of behind-the-scenes footage shows the actress in a number of dicey situations.
  • False Identity: Creating a New Reality (HD, 7 min) — Special effects and digital technology are a huge component of any major action flick, and this piece breaks down the numerous sequences where trickery was used to seamlessly bridge the gap between fantasy and reality.
  • Spy Disguise (HD, 5 min) — This piece takes a look at the various guises of Jolie's character, from doe-eyed blonde to ruthless brunette to swaggering Puerto Rican to the most difficult transformation of all – impersonating a male. Makeup designers, a prosthetics expert, and a stylist show us how they pulled it all off.
  • Trailers (HD)

Final Thoughts

'Salt' is surprisingly bland, despite some exciting action scenes and the sexy panache of Angelina Jolie. Its predictable, preposterous story defies logic, as does the heroine's superhuman ability to withstand a barrage of blows and perform an array of fantastical stunts.

The espionage thriller arrives on Ultra HD Blu-ray with a strong 4K video presentation that offers a notable step up over its Blu-ray counterpart. Also, the audio presentation has been equipped with an excellent, sometimes demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack, along with the same collection of supplements, making the overall package worth checking out for fans and early adopters enthusiastic about the new format.

Sale Price $19.99
List Price $19.99
Buy Now
3rd Party $19.81
Usually ships in 24 hours
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  • Editors Note

    Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Two-Disc UHD Combo Pack,Region Free,BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc (BD only)
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    2160p HEVC/H.265
    Length:100
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Atmos
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentary
    PiP Track
    Alternate Version
    Featurettes
    Trailers
    Movie Studio: Columbia Pictures
    Release Date: March 1st, 2016