By Ryan Keating-Lambert

★☆☆☆☆

Werner Herzog’s latest film is a bigger disaster than the impending ecological doom at the heart of its narrative. A waste of resources, and an immense waste of talented actors. What on earth happened here?

A group of three scientists are sent to South America to investigate a looming natural disaster involving both a dormant volcano and an expanding salt lake. Led by Laura (Veronica Ferres), the journey takes an unexpected turn when the three scientists, also including Dr Fabio Cavani (Gael Garcia Bernal), are kidnapped by Riley (Michael Shannon) – head of the corporation responsible for the disaster.

Salt and Fire was marketed as an ecological thriller with some big names, and it’s 100% not that. In fact, it’s 100% terrible. It suffers from a complete lack of comprehensible story, pretentiousness, and some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever witnessed in a film. Laura and Riley’s uncomfortable and sentimental relationship become the focus of the weak narrative, as they spend seemingly endless hours talking about absolutely nothing. When it’s not nothing, it’s pure cheese.

Which leads to the inevitable question.. Why were these big names in the film at all? Michael Shannon is probably the best actor of the bunch and he’s at less than half of his potential here. Gael Garcia Bernal has about 10 minutes of screen time until his character gets some proper nasty food poisoning, and is then written out altogether. “What was the point?” – a question that popped up multiple times during this film.

Some films are considered to be so bad that they’re good, but this is not one of those. It’s painfully slow pace make it not even worthy of Prague’s annual Schlockproof Film Festival. Director of Photography Peter Zeitlinger, also a guest at Prague’s Febio Fest this week, did a decent job at capturing the isolation and beauty of the salt flats, but not even that could save this film.

Herzog’s contrived quirk and way of thinking is just so unbelievably strange and unbearable. The only good things about this film were the twin blind boys, who almost made the second half of the film bearable. The key word there is ‘almost’.

Photo: Teaser trailer

 

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