- Released Internationally on 21/07/10
- Released in Malta by KRS on 01/09/10
Preview (first published in VIDA magazine on 01/08/10)
It’s sometimes tempting to dismiss Angelina Jolie’s acting talents because of how insanely attractive she looks. But her roles have been varied and acclaimed over the years, and her output consistently successful. Here she stars as Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent who is accused of being an undercover KGB agent. She must use her skills to stay on the run until she can clear her name, as the whole nation hunts her down. It’s sort of like the Bourne trilogy, but with a nicer silhouette.
Science fiction and fantasy films transport us to worlds which we, the audience, could never inhabit ourselves. I've always felt the same about spy films. They are a clearly defined and easily recognizable genre of films. They have their own set of rules. And although I know that somewhere in the present, or sometime in the future, the events therein can actually happen, they are as alien to me as the Millennium Falcon or Mordor. Those of you who are active or retired secret service agents may of course beg to differ, but then again I doubt you enjoy these sort of films to begin with.
In from the cold
The fictional tale on display today is set in the present and near future, within the arenas of USA and Russia with some leftover Cold War sentiments. One day, a haggard-looking, foreign-sounding old man walks into a supposedly covert CIA office, and announces that he is a Russian spy ready to hand himself in. Evelyn Salt, an experienced CIA agent with years of experience dealing with Russian affairs, is handed the job of seeing whether he is a nutcase or the real deal. After a brief interview she is all but ready to discard his unlikely theories, but as she leaves the room he announces to all who are listening that she herself is a Russian spy who will assassinate the Russian president on US soil in the coming days.
When in doubt
Her immediate supervisor, Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber - Defiance, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), seems to have faith in Salt, but the secret service chief Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor - Children of Men, 2012) isn't ready to take any chances. Terrified that her husband's safety could be at stake, Salt does what seems natural - she runs. This does wonders for her innocence plea, and a Washington-wide chase ensues. With years of physical, mental and weapons training under her belt, Salt proves rather elusive, and the mid-section of the film provides a long and exhilarating chase full of gadgetry and stunts.
Why it works
Then comes the point where the film scored many points, at least in my book. Rather than proceeding along the expected route, which has been seen in countless films before, the plot manages to keep twisting and turning, with a large amount of uncertainty, leaving the true motive and identity of this Salt character as something of a mystery right up to the ending. Admittedly, it verges on the silly and far-fetched at times, but the overall result remains entertaining and engaging. Director Philip Noyce (The Bone Collector, Clear and Present Danger) manages to keep the pace brisk throughout the film, although at times he resorts to the usual 'fugitive' clichés - running through woods - check, booking a hotel room under a false name - check, hair-dying scene - check, and so on. Jolie's performance is suitably enigmatic, with her sculpted facial features alternating between the anguish of a hunted wife and the stony expression of a disciplined spy.
In the end
There's nothing incredibly original about this film, although to their credit, the writers managed to conceive a rather inventive twist on the over-used Russian spy themes. Despite its flaws, it remains an entertaining espionage thriller which should appeal to a wide audience. Not particularly memorable, but great fun.