Cold War is still raging on if you take the word of Salt, and
old-fashioned twisty spy caper where the Russians no-goodniks are still
trying to take over the world.
Despite the oddly inscrutable title – Salt is Angelina Jolie’s
character’s last name; the Russians aren’t trying to kill us all off by
driving up our sodium intake – this is a very old school spy drama. In
fact, with its whip-fast changes in directions – even the main character
often seems to not be certain what side she is on – it almost seems like a
Manchurian Candidate for the Call of Duty generation.
course, there was already a new Manchurian Candidate – a remake of
that Cold War classic came just a few years ago… and it starred Liev
Schreiber, who co-stars as one of the main characters in Salt as
Still the movie mostly works, despite having a plot that is probably a bit
too complex for its own good and also falling into the modern action film
trap of making its main character nearly impervious to pain or injury or
are we supposed to worry about Salt’s life or death plight if she can drive
a car off a bridge – landing on top of a group of cabs – and not even get a
scratch or a limp? This is just one of many rather impossible moves that
our heroine pulls off here.
off with a very clever dilemma. Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is a long-time CIA
operative who has gotten married and decided she may be ready for a desk
job. One day an aging Russian spy shows up at their undercover headquarters
claiming to be dying of cancer and wanting to give information about a
potential assassination attempt.
spy tells them that years before the Russians had a special training
facility in which they trained small children to become future spies and
assassins – they would hide in plain sight as ordinary citizens all over the
world until they were called to duty decades later. One of these
clandestine spies, he insisted, was going to kill the Russian President.
That spy’s name was Evelyn Salt.
first the government agents don’t believe the story and Salt insists she is
being framed. However, when her husband disappears, she escapes custody and
starts acting erratically – going on the lam and taking death-defying risks
(well to anyone else, as mentioned before she seems to be impervious to
death) and causing massive accidents.
she shows up in New York where the Russian President Matveyev is speaking at
a funeral (despite the fact the US President and Vice President are given
completely fictional names, the film Russian President’s name is
significantly close to his real-life counterpart, Medvedev), leading
everyone (the audience included) to wonder if she is, indeed, the spy she
was outed as earlier.
Obviously, I will not tell you the answer to that question, though I will
say that your opinion on that question will change several times during the
course of Salt.
However, it continues the Hollywood desire to turn Angelina Jolie into an
action/adventure star – see also Lara Croft, Wanted, Mr. & Mrs. Smith,
Gone in 60 Seconds, the upcoming The Tourist – despite the fact
that she is probably a little too good of an actress for these roles.
There’s nothing here that we really haven’t seen Jolie do before, however
she kills with aplomb and makes her somewhat absurd stunts seem feasible.
Schreiber also does his normal fine work here as Salt’s former partner – he
tends to be better than the movies he is in and that streak continues –
although, as noted before, his character is rather reminiscent of his role
in The Manchurian Candidate.
one actor who is totally left out to dry here is Chiwetel Ejiofor – who like
Schreiber is normally much better than the films he is in… do I need say
more than 2012? – but here his trigger-happy government agent is so
cut and dry and so one dimensional that even this intriguing actor can’t
pump any life into the characterization.
However, Salt is really Jolie’s show and she keeps it from sinking
under the weight of its contrivances. If you are into the complex and
contradictory spy action you’ll be suitably puzzled and periodically
thrilled by it. It’s world politics played out as a video game, but it’s
mostly a fun one.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: December 4, 2010.