Wednesday, 18 August 2010


The word is that Salt was a script initially written with Tom Cruise in mind for the leading part. Instead, and not unpleasantly, we get Angelina Jolie as quadruple-crosssing, gun-toting, high-kicking CIA agent Evelyne Salt. Yet it is easy to see comparisons premise-wise with Cruise's more futuristic action thriller Minority Report.

Where Minority Report had a sci-fi theme, Salt is more of a spy thriller. Yet it does not lack for action. For over 100 bone-rattling minutes Jolie barges, blasts and blags her way through a multitude of certain death situations, while still managing to look stunning and totally in control for the vast majority of the time. The film's many plot twists don't seem to trouble her either. She reacts to seismic changes in her circumstances in the way that one might react to the cancellation of a favourite television programme.

We first see her in North Korea being tortured for being a spy. This sets the tone for the introduction of the slightly barm-pot yet nostalgic renewal of Hollywood hostilities with Communism. A film hasn't been this anti-Commie since Ivan Drago mused that 'if he dies, he dies' in Rocky IV. Yet the North Koreans disappear as quickly as they appear and it is that old foe the Russians who are absolutely out to get America and it's allies. To prove this they have planted Salt into the CIA. Yet they're nothing if not subtle, so her first mission is to assassinate the RUSSIAN president on his visit to New York.

We get all this news from a former Russian agent wanting to defect. Salt acts like it's news to her. She has a cover to protect, a regular home life with a husband and everything. She's just trying to get home for their anniversary dinner. But the evidence mounts and she decides that she's going to have to kill a few people after all.

That's about as much plot as you can stomach but trust me when I tell you there is a very different endgame. Along the way there are more twists and turns than a twisty-turny thing could ever hope to contain and we get the full range of Jolie's action heroine talents. She runs a lot, jumps a lot, fights a lot and even crosses genders to keep the authorities if not the audience guessing. She's like a female Jack Bauer. You're sure that what she is doing is good but you are not so sure that her methods are not equally if not more damaging.

I'm not suggesting that Salt is a likely story. Some of it's stunts and scenarios are so absurd they make James Bond movies look like documentaries. The climactic scenes are especially guilty here, as they ignore the golden rule about never leaving a witness alive. Yet none of this should detract from the enjoyment on offer. Far better to be absurd, know it and just enjoy it than to try and make some intellectual or salient point as so many films try and fail to do these days.

Salt is very definitely open for a sequel which, if it happens, has a lot to live up to action-wise. And a nagging problem about what to do with that witness.......

No comments: