MRR Movie Review: "Salt"

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Angelina Jolie portrays the main character of this 2010 espionage thriller. After she's accused of being a Russian spy, CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Jolie) goes on the run, using all of her skills and years of experience as a covert operative to elude capture. Her efforts to prove her innocence only cast more doubt on her motives, however, and the hunt to uncover Salt's true identity continues. Liev Schreiber co-stars as fellow agent Ted Winter.
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MRR Movie Review: "Salt"

Rating: PG-13
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: July 23, 2010
Directed by: Philip Noyce
Genre: Action/Crime/Mystery
Cast: Full Cast and Crew

"Salt" is a spy thriller from director Philip Noyce featuring Angelina Jolie in the title role. The original story, by screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, features a CIA agent who is suddenly revealed to be a Russian spy. The ensuing tight thriller is a fine alternative for adults looking for an action film with some substance. While some parts of "Salt" may seem a little derivative of the Bourne franchise and Daniel Craig-era Bond films, Noyce's assured hand and Jolie's acting make this a great choice for people looking for a bit of thought behind the action.

The film begins with Agent Evelyn Salt (Jolie) being tortured by North Korean agents. She finds herself released as part of a prisoner exchange, despite a CIA policy disavowing captured agents. Wary of her release, she is met by Ted Winter (Live Schreiber), a colleague who states that her husband's pleas led to the CIA working with the North Koreans for her release.

Two years later, it's Salt who is interrogating a Russian agent. With Winter by her side, she persuades the Russian to talk about a plot to assassinate the American-friendly Russian president. The plot, designated "Day X," is designed to destroy American-Russian relations while putting the United States into a state of chaos. This agent also claims that Salt is one of the sleeper agents assigned with carrying out the assassination. From this point, the film turns into a non-stop action flick, with Salt having to outrun her CIA cohorts while trying to discover the truth about her past. Noyce has edited the film in a way that cuts back and forth between the present and the details of Salt's origins, filling the blanks for the audience as the character learns about her true purpose. While edited in a similar style to the Bourne films, "Salt" still manages to keep viewers at the edge of their seats.

Before Jolie was cast in the main role, screenwriter Wimmer had written the script with a male lead named Edwin A. Salt. Tom Cruise had been attached to the film, but dropped out in favor of "Knight and Day." By replacing Cruise with Jolie, the filmmakers managed to save their movie. Having Cruise in the main role would have made this almost a carbon copy of the Bourne franchise, while Jolie brings an element of feminist toughness that makes "Salt" almost unique in the world of testosterone-driven action films. While she has tried her hand at this genre before with the "Tomb Raider" movies and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," this is the first of Jolie's action flicks that has had a strong emotional core. It's tough to imagine Cruise being able to do what Jolie has done.

While Jolie makes the film work from an acting perspective, it's Noyce's direction that really prevents "Salt" from being just another "Bourne" clone. With previous credits including "Patriot Games," "Clear and Present Danger," and "The Quiet American," Noyce is an old hand working within the spy genre. He keeps the film from getting too lost in its CGI and action, focusing on character and putting an emphasis on the relationship between Salt and her husband Michael. The fallout within the relationship, from Michael supposedly forcing the CIA's hand in exchanging prisoners for his wife to his eventual fate, is the backbone of the film. Without it, there would not be nearly as much for the audience to become emotionally attached to.

Jolie more than rises to the challenge as Salt, putting her action prowess and acting skills on full display. Her acting skills, especially in the scenes with her on-screen husband, create a fascinating character, and the revelations of Salt's past allow Jolie to push her acting to new levels as she reacts to each surprise. With so many nuances on display here, it's hard to imagine anyone else in this role. Jolie truly makes this character her own, making the audience want even more adventures of this intriguing agent after the credits role.

Overall, "Salt" is a good film, that thrives on the strength of Jolie's acting and the film's well-written romantic relationships. It has solid action and a great plot that should give adult action fans a bit of bang for their bucks. Director Philip Noyce creates solid films that appeal to the over-eighteen crowd, and "Salt" keeps that winning streak alive. Here's hoping the filmmakers are able to build on the potential seen here and create a sequel that expands upon this world of espionage and deceit.

Rating 3 out of 5