In Salt, Angelina Jolie portrays the titular clandestine agent on the run from the CIA–among others–after a former KGB man implicates her in a plot to assassinate the President of Russia. After a prologue set in North Korea, the action shifts to present-day Washington DC, where Salt and her fellow CIA agents are surprised to learn that she is actually a Russian super-spy trained from infancy (literally) to infiltrate the US government and await orders from Moscow to do . . . some nefarious something, presumably when the capitalist swine least expect it.
If this sounds silly, that’s because it is. The screenplay by Kurt Wimmer isn’t abominable, but it is predictable and lazy, full of holes and populated by cardboard characters whose purpose is either to divulge information which sets off another chase sequence, or to stand around waiting to get killed. The plot (such as it is) is merely a contrivance, in other words, and there are scenes so unbelievably preposterous that the matinee audience this reviewer shared the film with actually guffawed.
Salt is at its best when there is no dialogue, in fact. The action sequences are tight and well-choreographed. Director Phillip Noyce must have known he was directing something of a turkey, because the movie moves at a breakneck pace, leaving the audience little time to say “Hey, wait a minute!” Jolie runs, shoots, Krav Magas her way through platoons of stock SWAT guys, and (in one particularly exciting though far-fetched sequence) hops from big-rig to big-rig on the freeways around Washington. Noyce’s tasteful direction of these sequences helps to elevate Salt at times to something like art. (Partway through, this reviewer started wishing that Noyce and his cast—which isn’t bad either—had all decided to work on a movie with a better script.) It’s better than your average brainless actioner (though without the gleeful, tongue-in-cheek nihilism of Shoot-Em Up or Crank: High Voltage) but it’s not Heat. Actually, it’s not even The Fugitive. But at least we get evil Russians back again!
- Andrew Roberts