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They won't hold her for long: Jolie (center) in Salt.

She’s a Killer

By Shawn Stone

Salt

Directed by Phillip Noyce

 

The movie's ad campaign asked, "Who is Salt?" Judging from the finished film, the answer is "Jason Bourne with a vagina."

Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is first seen getting the crap beaten out of her by some very mean North Koreans. From this, we infer that she is one tough agent. Flash-forward two years, and "Ev," as her smart, funny CIA boss Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) calls her, is pushing papers at CIA headquarters and planning a wedding anniversary celebration with her doting German scientist husband (August Diehl).

Hmm, wasn't Jason Bourne's beloved Marie a German?

Soon enough, a grizzled, rogue Russian defector turns up and makes wild accusations about our heroine, and she's forced to go on the run. Will she prevent an assassination that might trigger World War III? Will she keep her husband out of harm's way? Will she avoid her out-for-blood CIA brethren, including an especially vengeful counterintelligence agent (Chiwetel Ejiofor)?

Whether she's making her escape by climbing along a high ledge, or hopping from an overpass to the top of a moving truck as it glides past the U-Haul building on I-787—wait, what?—or stealing a motorcycle on the fly, whatever Salt does, she does in a big, violent way. It's clear that Salt is a trained killer who would really like a normal life, but "they" won't let her. You know, like Jason Bourne.

Salt differs from the last two Bourne films in one important way, however: It's directed by Phillip Noyce, a cinematic classicist who eschews the shaky camera theatrics of Paul Greengrass. You're never confused by the on-screen action.

Jolie is perfect for this material. She has the swagger of Willis and the cool efficiency of Damon. Best of all, she can project a combination of vulnerability and intelligence in the split second before she slaughters a dozen killers in brutal retribution.

Except for Schreiber and Ejiofor, no one else in the movie has a chance.

As for the political context of the story, the less said the better. Ex- cept: Box-office receipts—or the lack thereof—have proven that moviegoers hate anything to do with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So how do you make a contemporary actioner and ignore the current geopolitical reality? Bring back the evil Russkies!

The Commie world-domination plot that forms the backstory of Salt gives off a distinctly Rocky IV vibe. Here, a fanatical Russian (Daniel Olbrychski) with superior will engineers shocking victories over decadent Americans by indoctrinating super-Soviet child warriors and planting them stateside for decades.

Ridiculous.

It's no spoiler to say that our heroine defeats them all, because, like almost every other actioner today, the ending is a set-up to a sequel.

Salt is a rare movie entertaining enough to merit one.


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