Let’s take care of this right away. If you cannot move beyond a really ridiculous plot in a movie, don’t bother going to see Salt. If you are the type of person to give such things a pass, you might have a pretty good time at Salt.
It’s common knowledge that the lead role was originally intended for Tom Cruise, but the role was then rewritten for Angelina Jolie, who plays a CIA operative who may or may not be a double agent.
The film opens with Evelyn Salt (played by Jolie) being brutally interrogated in North Korea. Stripped to her bra and panties Evelyn lies on the ground while being beaten and keeps iterating “I am not a spy,” over and over. The scene sets up two key points. Evelyn demonstrates how tough she is, and how well she can lie.
She is finally released to American authorities and tearfully confesses to her boyfriend that she works for the CIA. He doesn’t care, and the two get married.
Several years later, Evelyn is interrogating a Russian in CIA custody. He tells an elaborate story that ends with him accusing Evelyn of being a Russian secret agent. His story has too many details for her superiors to ignore, and they attempt to take her into custody. Citing concern for her husband, Evelyn runs. The scene in which she escapes the locked down building is one of the most original and thrilling of the movie.
For the remainder of the movie, Evelyn tries to elude the CIA while collecting evidence to exonerate herself. It’s a pretty fun romp trying to discern if she is good or bad, an American loyalist or a double agent. There are lots of twists and turns, some which I anticipated, and some I didn’t. Unfortunately the final denouement in the movie is absurd, and kind of taints the rest of the film.
Director Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) knows how to execute action, and that is where the film excels, but boy do you have to suspend belief to enjoy it. The three-waterfall scene from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull seems downright plausible by comparison.
Angelina Jolie does a very good job in the role, but her body is so frail looking that you fear she will snap in two. She has no muscle, and no brawn, so no matter how good her performance is, I can’t buy her as an ass-kickin’ chick. I’m pretty sure I could knock her over with my pinky. I understand why she was cast, but a Jennifer Garner or Alice Braga type with a little muscle would have been more convincing.
Liev Schreiber plays one of Evelyn’s CIA handlers and Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a counter-intelligence expert. Everyone else sort of fades into the background next to Jolie.
Salt is equal parts The Fugitive and the Bourne movies. It is perfectly serviceable as a summer popcorn movie, no more, no less.