The Cold War may be over (or not, given the recent New York City-based Russian spy scandal), but it’s alive and well in Salt, the new action adventure thriller directed by Phillip Noyce and starring Angelina Jolie. Originally intended to be a vehicle for Tom Cruise (until he bowed out, citing that the role would be too similar to his work in the Mission Impossible franchise), the film was then refashioned for Jolie. Here she plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent who is accused by a Russian defector of being a spy. In the wake of the news stories swirling around real-life Russian spy Anna Chapman, the release of this film couldn’t be more timely. Thankfully, it’s also tremendous fun, even if the plot is so outlandish that to truly enjoy it you’ll need to suspend all brain activity once you enter the theater.
One of my problems with Jolie is, unlike other actresses in her age range (e.g. Kate Winslet), she is not a particularly emotive actress; in fact, I often find both her onscreen and off-screen appearances to be utterly glacial, devoid of all warmth and vulnerability. That visceral frigidity works perfectly in Salt, and from a feminist point of view, it’s refreshing to see a woman (who does have a magnetic screen presence–coldness notwithstanding) headline an action adventure thriller.
Whether she’s creating a bomb out of office furniture or executing some insane stunt that has to be seen to be believed, Jolie acts with abandon and brio. She’s terrifically riveting as we follow Salt engaging in all sorts of high- and low-tech derring-do to elude capture. There doesn’t seem to be anything too preposterous for the character to do to get herself out of a bind. Watching Salt stage one mayhem after another is exciting in itself.
The screenplay by Kurt Wimmer is packed with action and dialogue that is equally absorbing and inane. But thanks to the velocity of the film’s direction, coupled with the the star’s investment and charisma, Salt emerges as this summer’s best popcorn film. Judging by the open-ended conclusion of the film, this could become another action franchise. Go see it, but remember to forget about logic when you buy your ticket.
Cross-posted at Films For Women