MovieMantz Review: ‘Salt’
First Published: July 21, 2010 11:48 AM EDT Credit: Sony
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- “A Jolie Good Time” By Scott Mantz
“Salt” Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber Directed by Phillip Noyce
Remember the good old days, when the Russians were the bad guys? Seems hard to believe that anyone could ever feel nostalgic about the Cold War, when the threats of nuclear annihilation and Communism raged from behind the Iron Curtain. But in an age where the United States government has its hands full with the likes of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism, the economy and the environment, times sure did seem a lot simpler back then.
But if recent front-page headlines are any indication, happy days are here again (if you could really call them “happy”). No sooner did the news break about the arrest of 11 Russian spies that the studio heads at Sony Pictures Entertainment suddenly found themselves sitting on the most relevant movie of the year. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the movie in question, “Salt,” was a big-budget action thriller starring Angelina Jolie – easily one of Hollywood’s most in-demand (and, thanks to the tabloids, over-exposed) superstars.
Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a top CIA agent who swore an oath of honor and duty to protect her country. But during the interrogation of a mysterious defector, she is accused of being a Russian sleeper spy, whose mission is to assassinate the President of the United States. Salt goes on the run in an effort to prove her innocence, but in the process, the layers covering her true identity are slowly peeled away. The question is, who’s side is she really on?
As far as summer action spectacles are concerned, “Salt” is just as entertaining as past Jolie hits, like 2005’s “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and 2008’s “Wanted.” There’s no question that she’s fun to watch, especially during well-choreographed fight scenes and daredevil jumps from the top of one speeding truck to the next. But her physical prowess notwithstanding, Jolie keeps you guessing about her true motives throughout the course of the fast-paced 100-minute thrill ride, and that helps make up for some of the more far-fetched absurdities in the plot.
“Salt” also feels like a blast from the past from Phillip Noyce, who previously directed Harrison Ford as CIA analyst Jack Ryan in 1992’s “Patriot Games” and 1994’s “Clear and Present Danger.” Not that they were particularly great movies by any means, but they were certainly slick, proficient and entertaining ones. It helps that the film boasts top acting talent like Liev Schreiber, a commanding presence as Salt’s longtime colleague and confidant.
It’s worth noting that at one point, “Salt” was suppose to star Tom Cruise as Edwin Salt. The fact that the screenplay (written by Kurt Wimmer) was changed to merely accommodate a different gender proves how formulaic the role was (or, more likely, how overqualified Jolie was to play it). Regardless, it’s easy to see why Cruise bolted for the more comedic “Knight and Day,” since he already gave a Salt-type performance in 2002’s “Minority Report” as a top government official who goes on the run to prove his innocence.
Were it not for the breaking news about the spy ring, the prospect of taking on the Russians might have made “Salt” feel dated and obsolete. So the timing – at least as far as the movie is concerned – is pretty perfect. That’s why “Salt” feels more like one of the classic James Bond movies than one of the recent Jason Bourne films, so to that extent, maybe happy days really are here again.
Verdict: SEE IT!
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