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Salt Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Wednesday, 18 August 2010 12:30
Director: Phillip Noyce
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Daniel Olbrychski
Certificate: 12A

When the story of Anna Chapman's identity as a Russian spy hit the headlines, several things happened. Her British passport was revoked. Folks at Columbia Pictures thanked her for making this preposterous plot more believable. And lots of people wished Anna had done more cool spy stuff. Like shoot people, jump onto moving vehicles, or use her pants to cover up security cameras. Now Salt is here, everyone's happy.

Phillip Noyce's thriller is a tricksy little thing, flitting back and forth in a world of sleeper agents and angry Commies. Three months ago, it would be written off as typical blockbuster twaddle. Now, it's lucky to be that tiny bit more plausible. The rest of its credibility issues are swiftly tackled by lots of explosions. And Angelina Jolie's legs.

Who is Evelyn Salt (Jolie)? Well, she looks like a blonde businesswoman with lips like a fish, happily married to a spider-obsessed German. He's called Mike. But in reality she's a CIA agent with lips like a fish, working alongside fellow spy Ted Winter (Schreiber). Then in walks a Ruskie called Orlov (Olbrychski), who accuses her of being an undercover Commie. And so Salt goes on the run, trying to prove her innocence. But, of course, the more stuff she blows up, the guiltier she looks. And having lips like a fish doesn't help much.

Ambiguity is key to Salt's tension, and Noyce's cast delivers it in spades: everyone looks suspicious at some point, even the straight-shooting Agent Peabody (Ejiofor), who leads the CIA's (wo)manhunt. At the head of it all is Angelina, who affirms her action star status with a swift kick to the crotch. Early on, she takes off her heels before running down some stairs. From then on, she never stops.

Casting a steely-eyed glint over everything around her, Jolie's Salt is impossible to read: barely saying a word for half the movie, she nails her character's poker face and internal conflict with what can only be described as class. Forget Tomb Raider and Wanted - this is the kind of movie Jolie should be making more often. She manages to be sexy, deadly, but most of all convincing. You can see why the role was originally written for Tom Cruise. You can also see that she's far better.

As the twists and turns unravel, Salt becomes more straightforward and pedestrian, all boiling down to a good old honest punch-up behind locked doors. But from the opening torture sequence onwards, Noyce makes sure we feel every hit Salt takes; low-level shots and CGI-free set pieces have a wonderful old-school feel about them. There's no shaky camerawork or messy editing, but the non-stop action makes Salt's journey one hell of a fast ride. Plot holes whizz past, just quickly enough to cover up the gaps. The result? A challenger to Bourne and Bond, with no end of impressive stunts, loud bangs, and trashy Cold War fun.


With its ballsy female hero and well-paced hokum, Salt is a high-octane burst of pure nonsense. Sequel please.


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