Or is she bad?
These are the two major questions that will not be answered until the final moments of “Salt,” the new action-packed thriller starring Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt, a CIA operative (Or is she a Russian spy?) who possesses such advanced weaponry skills and sophisticated martial arts moves that if Jack Bauer met her in open combat, he would soon be scuttling for a safe haven among the folds of his mother’s skirt.
Indeed Evelyn is a combination of Bauer, John Rambo, Sidney Bristo, James Bond, and Jason Bourne capable of unleashing unimaginable punishment on those who stand in her way, and with this creation Jolie has presented us with one of the most memorable heroines to hit the silver screen in quite some time. This dynamite also movie offers viewers a superb blend of action, adventure, mystery, intrigue, and even a bit of romance with more unexpected twists and turns than Route 88 in the throes of a blinding snowstorm!
We first meet Evelyn in Korea, where she is being tortured because she is suspected of being a spy. She persistently denies the charges against her, and she ultimately is set free via a prisoner exchange arrangement.
Now we move ahead two years to Washington, D.C., where we find Evelyn employed as a member of the CIA and happily married to Mike Krause (August Diehl), the arachnologist who orchestrated Evelyn’s release from prison in Korea. At the CIA she works alongside fellow operatives Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and one day a Russian defector walks into the office and says he has vital information to impart. Evelyn draws the assignment of questioning him, and the following conversation ensues.
Evelyn Salt: What is your name?
Orlov: My name is Vassily Orlov. Today, a Russian agent will travel to New York City to kill the President. This agent is KA-12.
Evelyn Salt: The KA program is a myth.
Orlov: Don’t you want to know the name?
Evelyn Salt: You’re good. You can tell the rest of your story to one of my colleagues.
Orlov: The name of the agent is Evelyn Salt.
Evelyn Salt: My name is Evelyn Salt.
Orlov: Then you are a Russian spy.
Orlov’s accusation throws CIA headquarters into a turmoil, and Winter and Peabody attempt to ask Evelyn what is going on, she bolts. Now we spend the rest of the film trying to figure out who is good and who is bad, and it’s a nonstop rollercoaster ride that will keep you guessing until the film’s thrilling denouement. Is Evelyn working for the United States or is she a Russian sleeper agent who is going to help launch Day-X, when all the sleeper spies begin war on the United States. Is Day-X real or fantasy? Jolie addressed this question in the film’s production notes.
“Day X is still a controversial topic inside the CIA. Some think it’s absolute nonsense and others believe that not only is it real, but sleeper agents have already been activated for certain cases. When we first approached the idea, we thought it was a bit of a fantasy, but as we found out more information, we discovered it was more real than we could have guessed. Truth really is stranger than fiction.”
Director Phillip Noyce (“The Bone Collector”) also expressed his belief in sleeper spies in the production notes.
“I have no doubt that sleeper spies are out there. It’s been a part of spycraft since day one. Even before reading Kurt Wimmer’s script, I was fascinated by the question of what might happen if long at rest sleeper spies were suddenly called to action.”
And Schreiber explained that the whole idea of the spies is what drew him to the film.
“After the fall of the Iron Curtain, what happened to all these spy agencies that were in place? The agencies themselves might have been disbanded, but the people in them, the operatives themselves, didn’t cease to exist. What if your colleague and close friend was one day identified as just such a person? These operatives were ingrained with modes of thinking that are now outdated in our contemporary political climate. I think that’s the question that Phillip’s interested in, and I was, too.”
Jolie is an extremely talented actress with an incredible range, but she has a real flair for action films as is evident in the Lara Croft movies, “Wanted,” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” However, she really outdoes herself with portrayal of Evelyn Salt. It’s no secret in Hollywood that Jolie likes to do a lot of her own stunt work, and this film is rife with stupendous stunts and superb special effects. And Jolie’s fight scenes are totally kick-ass.
“Salt” (Let’s give it a solid 9.) definitely earns the honors as the best action film of the summer thus far, and it even leaves some leeway for at least one sequel, and I say bring Evelyn back again and again. This film is an action freak’s dream. In fact, “Salt” is peppered with so many heart-stopping, adrenaline-producing scenes that it will leave you suffering from emotional exhaustion and a terminal case of white knuckles.