The role of Salt was offered to Tom Cruise who refused it because it was too close to his Ethan Hunt from the Mission Impossible films. Around the same time, Angelina Jolie expressed a desire to play the suave super spy James Bond. In the happy world of Hollywood coincidences, Edwin Salt was converted into Evelyn Salt and voila! we have a breathless action film that is super easy on the eye thanks to the lovely Ms. Jolie.
Being a Phillip Noyce film (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger), Salt has a whole lot of twists and turns punctuated by solid action to keep us glued. With minimal use of CGI, there is a nice, old-fashioned muscularity to the film.
Salt is a covert agent at the CIA. The movie opens with a prologue where Salt is tortured for being a spy in North Korea. An arachnologist, Mike Krause, who Salt had met in New York, orchestrates her freedom. Despite knowing the nature of her work, the two get married.
On their wedding anniversary, Salt is leaving early from work when a Russian defector, Orlov, walks in. Salt is in charge of the interrogation. He talks of sleeper spies and Day X when the operators will work in tandem to destabilise the U.S. He says Day X is upon us and the Russian President, who is in New York for the American Vice-President's funeral, would be killed by a sleeper spy named Evelyn Salt.
Brain scans show Orlov is speaking the truth. Salt fears for her husband's life and makes a run for it. From then on, the film is an adrenaline-filled chase with loads of bone crunching action. The plot is preposterous, but there is the tantalising “what if” factor, remember the news was full of Russian sleeper spies being deported from America a couple of weeks ago.
Salt is fascinating for being a big budget action film with a female lead. It builds on Jolie's stock as an action star, using her Lara Croft and Fox (Wanted) characters as a springboard. Evelyn Salt, however, does not have much of a sense of fun.
As Croft and Fox, Jolie with her raised eyebrow and moist mouth revelled in a sense of mischief, which is completely lacking in her Salt. Also looking as painfully thin (positively skinny) as she does, Jolie is an effective advertisement against size zero.
Liev Schreiber as Salt's boss, Chiwetel Ejiofor as the counterintelligence operative, and Daniel Olbrychski as Orlov offer able support.
Salt is a fun and thrilling ride through an outrageous plot. Now Ms. Jolie should take a break and feed herself before returning for the sequel — of course, there is a sequel as this is just the origin story.
PS: Dog lovers will have some anxious moments.
Director: Phillip Noyce
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski, and Andre Braugher
Story: A CIA agent, Evelyn Salt, is accused of being a Russian sleeper spy. She needs to clear her name and save the world where nothing is as it seems. Solid.
Bottomline: Enjoyable with solid action, thrills and twists and turns galore.