is Salt? That’s what every ad and billboard for director
Philip Noyce’s (Patriot Games and Clear
and Present Danger) return to big-budget action asks.
And whose face is plastered on these ads? Angelina Jolie.
So, than guess who Salt is? Very good.
ads have made me chuckle for months seeing as how we don’t
really need to wonder what character Jolie is playing. Having
finally seen the movie, it’s become quite clear that
such a question has a double meaning. Indeed, who Salt is
beyond her name becomes the real question and actually what
she is appears to be a more appropriate question as well
as the driving force of the movie.
Anyone who’s seen a trailers or TV spots for Salt
knows what to expect in this conspiracy action thriller.
Produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura (the “Transformers”
movies), someone who knows a thing or three about mindless
action movies, this is a spy game that at least has its
head (mind you, it’s a bobble-head) on its shoulders.
While viewers won’t have to park their brain to enjoy
the ride here, it does exist in a modern-day reality that
doesn’t stop for details or in-depth characterization.
Not that one is really expecting such elements in a ballsy
and preposterous action flick starring one of the most noteworthy
(yes, noteworthy….she can carry a drama or an action
flick, folks) and bankable actresses alive and working today.
Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie), is a veteran CIA agent who
lives with her loyal German spider-researcher husband (Michael
Krause, Inglourious Basterds) and their dog in
D.C. All is well as they approach their anniversary, until
one afternoon when she and her superior and friend, Ted
Winter (Liev Schrieber), are asked to stay late to deal
with a troublesome Russian defector (Daniel Olbrychski)
who claims he has vital information.
on and on about how the Russians have trained sleeper agents
and assassins for decades and then boasts that Salt is one
of them, planted here to take part in destroying America.
All interrogation scans show this guy is telling the truth,
so what are her peers to think?
Such a declaration sends Salt running, which doesn’t
bode well for her innocence, of course. She’s more
concerned about her husband’s safety and making sure
her backflip off a perfectly good freeway lands her safely
on an oncoming truck below. CIA director Peabody (Chiwetel
Ejiofor) could care less about the truth and sends her fellow
agents after her in droves. He just wants her contained
until then her actions have him convinced she is guilty.
Salt’s heels are off, the chase is on, as we see her
turn into a one-woman army capable of turning anything into
a weapon while breaking into anything she sees fit. Barreling
through the capital, than New York and back at a dizzying
pace, we start to wonder where Salt’s loyalty lies
as well as what exactly she is going to do to clear this
There are very few women who could command such a performance
and headline this type of film as well as Angelina Jolie.
I bring this up because for so long such a film has been
associated with a male lead in mind. Don’t believe
me? When Jolie first read the script, the main character
was named Evan A. Salt and originally Tom Cruise was attached
to star. Cruise declined due to other obligations and was
also feeling audiences had seen enough of him doing the
spy thing before (but not the kooky spy thing he went on
to play in Knight and
story actually benefits by the gender change, especially
since Jolie is so believable and charismatic as the woman
on the run. I was sore just watching her tumble from one
moving truck to another. Right away, it’s clear this
isn’t a vanity project for Jolie, her face is battered
and bloodied from start to finish. Since Jolie (reuniting
with her director on The Bone Collector) easily
and convincingly carries the movie with little effort, it’s
obvious that there was no need for this Salt character to
be peppered with testosterone.
The film may even benefit from the fact that actual Russian
spies were discovered in the U.S. recently, making the story’s
plot not so far-fetched. But I doubt that will play any
factor in the mind’s of viewers or in the overall
success of this fun film. Audiences will come to check out
Jolie, wanting to see her kick-butt and they will find just
is in frenzied overdrive throughout, using not only her
fists and kicks but also her looks. She convincingly goes
from blond to Goth brunette and sells it well….except
for the part where she disguises herself as a man. C’mon
Co-written by Brian Hegeland (The Bourne Supremacy)
and Kurt Wimmer (Law Abiding Citizen) in a manner
that replaces gratifying details with satisfying thrills,
this is a film concerned more with movement than moving
viewers. They get a little carried away with the cartoonish
Russian backstory, to the point of including Lee Harvey
Oswald in the mix, of all people.
this is not a script that needs to make time for anything
beyond getting to point A to point “wherever”
at a frantic pace, which it executes efficiently. Sacrificing
any real characterization, we’re left to care about
Salt more out of curiosity since we haven’t really
invested in who she is but rather in what she does.
Therein, lies the question again: Who is Salt? The woman
Salt is a seemingly impenetrable lethal weapon and the movie
Salt is her obnoxious vehicle which defies realism.
Who knows if we’ll find out more about her in the
sequel(s) that are bluntly hinted at toward the end?
thought-provoking thriller would be welcome but more of
the same would be just fine as long as Jolie is back. Clearly,
the studios couldn’t do a sequel without Jolie, so
it remains entirely up to her. Like the condiment you find
on a restaurant table, with this Salt you know
how it's gonna taste. Noyce and Jolie deliver just the right
amount of estrogen-infused seasoning, preserving a familiar
review also appears on David's own website,
Keeping It Reel.)