Angelina Jolie has been a movie star for many years. Her striking beauty has elevated mild mannered treats into a assault of the senses. With films like Mr. & Mrs. Smith and the Lara Croft series, she has shown that she can pepper a sugary little cinematic morsel into a spicy event. In a pinch of a tale called Salt, she gives us a shaker full of action.
Salt, the movie, refers to Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) and we start two years ago. She is being held by the North Koreans, called a spy. She insists that she is a business woman and the incident is a mistake. In a torture scene reminiscent of 007, Salt is watered in a sea of wetness. Eventually, she is traded in an exchange, driven by her romantic partner Mike Krause (August Diehl), a spider researcher. Her co-worker Ted Winter (Leiv Schreiber) lets us know very early that, yes indeed, Salt is a CIA spy working undercover at a power company called Risk. That’s right, she’s a risky spy.
We go to modern time and Evelyn is considering becoming a paper pusher in the Agency, giving up the clandestine life for wedded bliss. Right as Salt is going home, a Russian agent named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) comes to the office, ready to confess his crimes. He tells the staff that there is going to be an execution of the Russian Prime Minister by Russian agents infiltrated within the US. The agent who will end the life of the politician has been here in a secret Soviet plan since she was a little girl. The assassin is named Evelyn Salt.
Evelyn is taken aback. She knows that this is a set-up and that the bad guys will first go after her husband Mike. The CIA Internal Affairs department instantly wants to detain Salt, just to get to the bottom of all the accusations. Salt bolts. It becomes a cat and mouse game to get out of the building and to her apartment. It becomes one of the big set pieces of the picture when we see Salt’s prowess in making makeshift weapons and finding creative ways to escape capture. Soon she becomes ‘A Salt with a Deadly Weapon’ as she makes it home to find out that indeed someone has abducted her beloved. Orlov escapes with a device seen in From Russia with Love.
The question keeps in the forefront of the piece – who’s side is Salt truly on? Sometimes she does things that look very ‘bad guy’ and other times she is taking care not to hurt the people she is trying to escape from. She begins taking on all comers from all corners, showing ‘a Salt and battery’ on all the enemies, finding all the bad guys while still avoiding capture, being a ‘Salt shaker’ if you will. The diversion of the work is to decide wither one will root for or against Salt in her mission.
In so many ways, Salt feels grainy, like a third rate James Bond or a Mission: Impossible sequel. We get all the action one would expect with great explosions and thrilling chases. There are escapes from buildings and cars, all done with great skill by the second unit. The problem is that it all feels a bit ‘been there – done that’ with the plot. While trying to keep us guessing on “Who is Salt?” the makers have gone a cliche ridden route, with just about every twist lifted from other sources.
The bigger problem is with Jolie. She has lost so much weight that she looks tiny. Where in Mr. & Mrs Smith she was long and lean, here she is just has an anemic look. It becomes a very hard ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ to buy that a barely 100 pound woman could take down highly trained agents time and time again.
The question arises – is Angelina Jolie worth her salt in Salt? Well, pinch me, this mother is set up for another episode. Will we see Salt again? Probably. Salt is just a forgettable summertime blockbuster, a rainy day waste of a few hours with some thrills and spills along the way.