In Salt, directed by Phillip Noyce, Angelina Jolie looks like a Bond girl but moves like Jason Bourne and can wear a rubber mask like Ethan Hunt. She can take a fire extinguisher and turn it into a rocket launcher, jump from one moving truck to another on a freeway, kill dozens of armed men, and walk barefoot on a ledge of a building while holding her small dog in her backpack. That dog is in good hands.
Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, an undercover CIA operative who works in a building that is disguised as the headquarters for an oil company in Washington D.C. Good cover, but one day a Russian man (Daniel Olbrychski) comes into the building claiming to be a defector. When interviewed by Salt, he tells her a story involving the assassination of J.F.K, Russian spies trained since their childhood, and a plot to kill the Russian president on U.S soil. To top it off, he finishes by saying that Evelyn Salt is the name of the spy who will pull the trigger. Salt’s co-worker Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) believes the man is making it all up, but a counter-intelligence officer called Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) prefers not to take any chances and wants to interrogate Salt, who chooses to flee when her husband won’t answer the phone, a sure-sign that something is wrong in a spy thriller.
From that point on, everyone is after Salt. She goes back and forth from Washington to New York while the police and government agent try to stop her. This involves car chases, chases on foot, multiple gunfights, explosions, and rubber masks.
The plot is outrageous so it works better if the viewer doesn’t think about it too much. In fact, the less you think the more likely it is that you will be surprised by a few plot twists. You are too busy being watching Salt jumping down an elevator shaft to be thinking anyway. What is believable is that Salt is a spy, no matter who she works for. She can change her appearance with coloured contact lenses, hair dye, stolen clothes, and fake ID cards. It is amazing how a few simple changes to your appearance can make you blend in a crowd.
Jolie is really good in those kinds of roles since she is not only performing stunt work and running around with guns while looking stunning, but she also plays the character straight and with emotion. Sometimes Salt is fearless, sometimes she fears for the life of a person close to her, and when things don’t work out, she gets angry and empties her gun on a bullet-proof window. It doesn’t damage the window, but she calms down and finds a way into the room.
In this age of terrorism it is a welcome change of pace to have Russian spies as villains once more. There is even a Russian who has a knife in his shoe, just like in “From Russia with Love” the second Bond movie.
One minor quibble though: in the movie’s trailer, you clearly see clips from a sex scene involving Jolie and presumably, her onscreen husband (August Diehl). Sadly, these scenes were apparently deleted from the theatrical release. Why? If you make a movie with Angelina Jolie as a sexy spy and you film a sex scene, let the audience enjoy it, don’t make them wait for the DVD. Who cares if it is gratuitous, this whole movie is a gratuitous treat filled with violence, stunts, and spies. By all means, add a sex scene to the spy thriller.