If youâ€™ve been reading or watching the news, you know about the U.S. governmentâ€™s recent bust-up of a Soviet spy ring. Most of the media attention was focused on a pretty young party girl who made the Manhattan social scene while funneling top-level secrets back to the Russkies.
â€śSaltâ€ť benefits from the connection to the headlines, but itâ€™s all coincidence. The movie was in the making, and even in the can, long before the real-life spy drama came to light.
Angelina Jolie rips into the title role of a CIA super-agent accused of being a Soviet counterspy. Outed---or set up?---by a Russian defector, Evelyn Salt suddenly finds herself on the run as a long-incubating Russian plot to take down the United States begins to play out.
Her life, her husband, and all-out nuclear war hang in the balance.
Salt makes it difficult to know her true motives, or her mission, as she slam-bangs her way out of seemingly impossible jams and blazes a path of destruction from Washington D.C. to New York. Bodies start to pile up on both sides, and the movie intriguingly scrambles its signals. Is she a hero, or a villain? Is she trying to stop the Soviets, or help them along?
Itâ€™s interesting to watch a female in a movie framework that usually oozes testosterone. Tom Cruise was initially signed on for the part, but backed out when he thought the plot was too close to his own â€śMission Impossibleâ€ť franchise. The role was retooled for Jolie.
The plot definitely keeps you guessing, and itâ€™s got the snap, crackle and pop youâ€™d expect from a brisk spy-on-the-run romp. But, unfortunately, â€śSaltâ€ť runs straight into a few too many familiar action clichĂ©s, without offering much in the way of invention or innovation.
The plot becomes pretty ridiculous, but action scenes and the stunts are well staged, and itâ€™s refreshing, in this era of computer-generated overkill, to see some old-fashioned, metal-on-metal car crashes. If you can suppress your â€śOh, come on!â€ť impulses, youâ€™ll get kick out of seeing Salt navigate around the outside of a high-rise building, hop from the top of one speeding truck to another, and catch a descending elevator by soaring like a flying squirrel down the shaft.
She also makes a bazooka out of a conference-room table leg, uses her pantyhose to disable a security camera, leaps from of a speeding subway train, jumps out of a helicopter, and appears implausibly well versed in practically every deadly art.
When Salt shows up at a White House event in a disguise that makes her look like Wayne Newton impersonating a Soviet officer, no one on the security detail flinches. But youâ€™ll probably giggle.
A supporting cast of capable (male) actors fills in the gaps on both sides of the geopolitical divide, but this is Jolieâ€™s gung-ho show all the way. Without seeming to worry that it doesnâ€™t call for much in the way of serious acting, she plays Salt with just the right tone of cool, sexy, sometimes scary inscrutability that makes her character such a difficult one to peg, and a dangerous one to cross.
If youâ€™re not a fan of action thrillers to begin with, you should probably spend your ticket dollars elsewhere. But if youâ€™re curious just how this little firecracker cocktail of adrenaline, estrogen and espionage tastes, â€śSaltâ€ť may be just the seasoning to go with your summer popcorn.
And if they ever do make a movie about that New York spy ring, forget Tom. Call Angelina first.
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