Angelina Jolie does for spy movies what Matt Damon did in the Bourne series.
She is a trained assassin whose motives arenít entirely clear, someone we have to follow on a head spinning road to redemption through hellfire, betrayal and long simmering political and personal mysteries.
Itís a visceral, violent, and dangerous journey and itís a great time and stars one of the most bankable and beautiful stars in the world.
Evelyn Salt is tortured, bloodied, and nearly dead when we meet her, lying in a North Korean cell begging for her life, denying that sheís a spy. She is freed in a bizarre prisoner swap and handed back to US government agent Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) and a mystery man. Cut to her at her Washington CIA desk getting ready to meet her husband for an anniversary dinner.
Sheís told a Russian has ďcome inĒ from the street to defect and she is to question him. Almost before we can gather what heís saying, he accuses her of being a Russian spy. Immediately she turns and runs, as her colleagues clock the place down to arrest her.
Thus begins a high speed chase that takes plot bending turns on a dime. Winter and his men are after Salt, but he hangs back a little, refusing to believe she is a spy. He seems to be genuinely concerned for her well-being, beyond their professional ties.
Through flashbacks, we discover fragments of her background which slowly build into something that challenges our beliefs. We learn her husband, the man who bargained for her release from North Korea, is a Russian national and that she has some ties to Russia.
Salt and the agents on her tail are headed for New York, to the state funeral of the US Vice President, where the Russian Vice President is to be assassinated, if snitches and logic are to be credited. The idea is that Russian agents are setting off a Day X endgame strategy for all the chips.
Sensational action scenes, featuring Salt riding down a highway leaping from one truck roof to another, down an elevator shaft, beam by beam, an apartment building brick by brick.
Jolieís really physical and quick and did many of her own stunts one of which must be considered her quick changes. She makes an appearance as a man at one point, walking, talking, and looking for the world like one.
As usual, Jolie puts everything into the character and action, transcending the genre and creating a real person. And while action isnít new to her, this kind of politically motivated intensity is.
The film recalls the Cold War as if it exists today. It seems strange to bring out a film set in that world in this time period, but remnants of that age of hate and fear may still be in play.
A recent and highly publicized spy swap between Russia and the US added a bit of nostalgic political frisson to the headlines, and who knows whatís out there?
Although Iím pretty sure Anna Chapman canít shimmy down eight floors of a building hand over hand.
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35mm action thriller
Written by Kurt Wimmer
Directed by Philip Noyce
Opens: July 23
Runtime: 100 minutes
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action
Language: English, Russian