July 29, 2010


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Salt (PG-13)
Angelina Jolie kicks all kinds of butt in the pop-corny Salt, a delightful bit of Cold War air conditioning in this muggy movie summer.

We first meet Evelyn Salt (Jolie) as she’s getting the stuffing beat out of her in a North Korean prison. She’s pleading with them to call her company, that she’s not a spy. Cut to a prisoner trade in the DMZ — of course she’s a spy, for the C.I.A. no less, and, counter to policy, she’s being rescued in part by the insistence of Mike (August Diehl), the man who would become her husband.

A few years later and Evelyn is working in Washington with Ted Winter (Liev Schrebier), the agent who escorted her from North to South Korea, as her boss. Her husband Mike is waiting for her at home so they can celebrate their anniversary. She and Ted are nearly out of the building after a hard day of spy work when an agent runs up and asks them for a few minutes — a man named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) has come in claiming to be a Russian intelligence agent who wants to defect. Fluent in Russian, Salt is asked to talk to him, and after some chitchat he comes to the point. A Russian agent has been placed deep in the American intelligence community, so deep that no one ever could have detected this person’s true allegiance to Mother Russia. But now that sleeper agent is about to carry out the job for which they have been trained — at the upcoming funeral of the American vice president, this double agent is going to kill the Russian president.

Salt, Orlov says as she gets up to leave the interview, the agent’s name is Evelyn Salt.

My name’s Evelyn Salt, she says.

Then you are a Russian spy.

Shock, tension, scramble.

Ted tries to convince Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the counterintelligence agent who was monitoring the interview, that what the man says can’t possibly be true. Salt tries to contact her husband, Mike, afraid that this attack on her will include an attack on him.Not able to get Mike on the phone, Salt escapes, hurrying to her apartment to look for her husband but making herself look guilty in the process.

There are at least two, maybe three, big twists in this story and if you’ve ever seen an action movie, you can probably figure them out miles before they happen. It doesn’t matter; this isn’t so much about the mystery you’re trying to unravel. It’s about the many times when Salt, armed with nothing but a bad-ass look, takes down three or four guards at once. It’s about chases that involve jumping from an overpass to a moving truck and then onto another moving truck. Beating dudes up, making things explode, building a weapon out of office supplies — this isn’t the complex and visually stunning topsy-turvy fight scene in Inception; it’s Live Free or Die Hard and hitting a helicopter with a car.

Jolie, who has been at times a good dramatic actress and at times a fun, winking action hero, seems a perfect fit with this movie. The physicality of her role, the ballet of hiding and fighting and jumping is fantastically fun. She acts just enough to move the story along and doesn’t let the sometimes nonsensical story get in the way of what she’s there to do — deliver a gut punch of giddy action. B

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action. Directed by Phillip Noyce and written by Kurt Wimmer, Salt is an hour and 39 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Sony Pictures.