Salt moves like a bullet, and almost never stops to take a breath; as a result, neither do we. I can’t think of a recent film that’s maintained such a breakneck pace or made me so unaware of time flying by. This is beneficial, because the story doesn’t always make sense…but when a film is this energetic and entertaining, it would be a shame to spoil the fun by demanding too much of it.
Angelina Jolie is well cast as a CIA operative who has survived torture and imprisonment in North Korea and wound up at a desk job in Washington, D.C. Then an unexpected turn of events impels her to (literally) run for her life.
Jolie’s athleticism is put to especially good use here. She’s one of the few actresses around who can—
—make me believe she’s really leaping from a highway overpass onto a passing truck below or hanging onto an eleventh-floor building ledge. (According to director Phillip Noyce, she did perform most of her stunts, with the aid of invisible movie trickery.) Her commitment to the often-elusive character of Evelyn Salt, as well as her physicality, makes the movie work as well as it does.
Liev Schreiber is a bit more transparent as her longtime colleague, and Chiwetel Ejiofor does yeoman service as an FBI agent who doesn’t trust anyone. But this is unmistakably a vehicle for Angelina Jolie (even though the role was originally written for a man).
Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, who visited this territory before in The Recruit, has concocted a fairly outlandish story, even though its central idea of sleeper cells is valid and intriguing. I’m afraid I saw his climactic “big reveal” coming almost a mile away, but he and Noyce have filled the movie with enough colorful details of how a well-trained spy operates to maintain a fair degree of suspense. My chief complaint is that I can't buy a key element in the makeup of the central character, which I can’t reveal.
The result is a movie that’s diverting and genuinely exciting to watch. I wish its story were air-tight, but even with its flaws it provides solid entertainment and a great showcase for its star.