July 25, 2010 -- A mysterious main character, lots of action and a complicated plot combine for a pretty good summer popcorn movie. Angelina Jolie, taking over a role originally intended for Tom Cruise, does a pretty good job portraying a tough, sexy spy desperately trying clear her name and save the life of her husband after she is accused of being a Russian sleeper agent.
Key to the success of this movie is that you don't know who Evelyn Salt (Jolie) really is until the very end of the movie. Is she a loyal American CIA agent? Is she a loyal Russian agent? Is she a CIA agent who has turned against the U.S.? Is she a Russian agent who has turned against the Russians? It really isn't clear until the end of the film, and even then, it isn't entirely clear what her motives are. What is clear is that Salt is tough, smart, resourceful, and unforgiving. You don't cross her and survive. On top of that, there is also a plot that threatens the survival of millions. Salt is trying to uncover the truth of what is happening at the same time the audience is trying to find out the truth about her. The plot is intriguing.
The story starts out with Salt in North Korean captivity. She is exchanged for another prisoner, largely thanks to the efforts of her husband, Mike Krause (played by August Diehl of “Inglourious Basterds”). Skipping ahead several years we find Salt interviewing a Russian defector, Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) who names her as a Russian spy. Unable to reach her husband by phone, Salt breaks out of custody. She is worried he may be killed by Russian agents. Orlov also escapes. Salt arrives home to find her husband is missing and evidence that he has been kidnapped. She spends most of the rest of the movie on the run. The action in the film is so exaggerated it isn't very believable, but there certainly is plenty of it. The film is also well paced.
Interestingly, a group of “sleeper” Russian spies was arrested in real life and exchanged for people being held by the Russians just before the release of this movie. This gives the story a bit more credibility than it would ordinarily have. There is a certain similarity between some elements of this movie and past movies made during the Cold War such as “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Telefon.” The sleeper Russian spies in this film seem to have been pre-programed to some extent, like those in previous films. Angelina Jolie does a good job playing the main character, with solid support from Olbrychski, Liev Schreiber (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (“Children of Men”). This film rates a B.
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