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'Salt' starring Angelina Jolie is a satisfying spy flick

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The movies for grownups have finally arrived this summer!

Salt, the new spy thriller starring Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber starts off with Salt starring Angelina Jolie. Photo: http://movies.spreadit.org/salt-movie-review/2010/07/21/a gruesome interrogation scene set two years ago in North Korea. Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is bound, bloodied and begging for her life, insisting that she’s not a spy. Watching movies about spies is interesting business – we are observing professionals who are convincing liars, portray people who are liars to save the country and their life. Who are they? What do you believe? How much of their story is true? The themes of trust and identity run throughout the 90 minutes.

Salt ends up back in the US – working at her CIA cover job at a petroleum company (unintentional irony). Before she can head home to celebrate her anniversary with her sweet German scientist husband – she has one more mundane task to handle. Orlov, a Russian national, has walked into her office claiming he knows the identity of a mole. Ted Winter (Schreiber), Salt’s superior and friend, asks her to take lead, they both are eager to get on with their evenings. He and their team observe and record from the shadows. Salt sizes up the old man, they banter, they speak Russian, and he claims that she is the mole – a Russian sleeper agent who has been activated for a decade’s old mission.

Unfortunately Peabody, (Chiwetel Ejiofor) their pesky colleague from Counter Intelligence was sitting in on the conversation, and he’s taking Orlov seriously. Winter doesn’t believe it. Evelyn tries to reach her husband – and when no one can get a hold of him – she engineers her escape. The rest of the movie followers her in her journey – as she does what, exactly?

Sorry, you’ll find no major spoilers here.

Philip Noyce, who’s directed previous thrillers The Bone Collector, Patriot Games  and Clear and Present Danger  manages the fast moving plot – but he’s not as elegant with the quick camera work, as Paul Greengrass, who directed the rattling The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Supremacy. The chase scenes and the occasional crashes felt sloppy rather than disorienting. Most of the stunts required an enormous suspension of disbelief.

While Jolie capably handles the emotional nuances of her character, I watched her rail thin frame and I couldn’t believe she’d be actually able to defend herself in any of the fight scenes. She certainly looks like her technique is correct, but she doesn’t appear to have the strength to be a viable physical threat. Her “disguise” was equally absurd. Salt is naturally blue eyed – with long blond hair – so naturally, she dons dark contact lenses and dyes her hair black… but doesn’t cut it! She looked like Lara Croft, with a career change.

The supporting diverse cast – including actors from Germany, Great Britain, and Poland , were excellent, but it felt unnatural that Evelyn Salt was the only woman in most of the scenes. There were a couple of women as techs or other agents in the background – but the movie predominantly played as a boy’s club. This created a weird dynamic among the men – who were alternately attracted, intimidated and fearful of the inscrutable femme fatale.

Salt does a satisfying job of blending the physical conflicts with emotional subtext. The denouement neatly sets up new possibilities for her. If Jason Bourne is retired, and Bond is in limbo, we may get a sequel to Salt.

Contact Diane Cooney at  dc@dianecooney.com

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