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Salt and Fire

   review Bobby Blakey

Director Werner Herzog has made some truly great films including one of my favorite documentaries The Grizzly Man. His latest film, Salt and Fire features a great cast including Veronica Ferres, Michael Shannon, Gael Garcia Bernal, Volker Michalowski, and Lawrence Krauss, but does it offer up anything to do this crew justice or will it dry up like the desert that it inhabits?

Salt and Fire follows a mysterious hostage-taking where the leader of a small scientific delegation is deliberately stranded with two blind boys in an area of gigantic salt flats. This is one of those movies that showcases some great performances and an interesting story, but still manages to never fully deliver what I think it set out to. This is essentially two films put into one with a jumbled message that makes sense, but is still so strange that it might lose some. The first part of the story focuses on the kidnapping and set up of things to come in the second half. This portion is interesting and intense at times, but it suddenly shifts direction and the characters go from terrified and unpredictable to suddenly trusting and able to just work together. Clearly this is setting up for the things that happen in the second half which then becomes a whole different kind of film.

This second part becomes essentially a one woman show as lead actress essentially has to carry the film alone alongside two children. She does a great job, but it is kind of like watching something like Castaway, but a lot less interesting at times. There are some great moments here, but nothing that ever fully captivated me in the way I think it was intended too. The ending is even more bizarre when it is revealed to why she was put through this ordeal leading to an even more strange moment involving a spoon, iPad and a toy that makes sense when explained, but is just weird. 

This is one of those movies that will no doubt resonate differently with everyone. It isn’t so bizarre that it will weird people out, instead it is one that just takes some strange artistic direction thanks to Herzog and comes together in a way that only he can make work.

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