I'm fairly certain that Angelina Jolie could kick my ass. I'm fairly certain that she could kick your ass. I'm fairly certain that she could kick most of the asses in the Greater Boise Metropolitan Area. That's reason enough not to give her a bad review. But that's not why I absolutely love Salt.
This movie sets out (and succeeds nicely) to entertain inside the well-defined borders of a taut thriller. But it doesn't stray into Mission Impossible-land where the same explosion is shown rapid fire from three camera angles, or even Bourne-land where you're left more breathless than engaged.
In spite of its elaborate spy vs. spy plot, there are very few false notes in Salt. The movie opens with the mysterious Evelyn Salt (Jolie) being released from a North Korean prison. From there, this enigma of a woman reveals layer upon layer of complexity, and the movie never leaves you behind.
It's not giving too much away to say that Salt is a C.I.A. operative, and her life gets turned upside down when she's accused of being a Russian mole. As crazy as the plot twists are, somehow they come across with great validity, and there's one chief reason: Angelina Jolie. Yes, she's made other movies that are more highbrow (A Mighty Heart, Changeling), but Salt is among her best work. And for anyone who thinks that international spies aren't attractive, look no further than the recent real-life scandal involving Russian agent Anna Chapman.
Just because Salt has a high body count and a mounting tonnage of wrecked cars doesn't mean that it can't be considered one of the best of the year. It's reminiscent of The Fugitive (for my money, one of the best movies of the 1990s that never received the critical respect it deserved).
While Harrison Ford had Tommy Lee Jones as his pursuer, Jolie has Liev Schreiber, who does plenty with a relatively sparse role. It's hard to believe that film is considered Schreiber's secondary medium. Yes, he's even better on the stage (I saw his inspiring performance last season in Broadway's A View From the Bridge) so it comes as no surprise that the July 30 issue of Entertainment Weekly labels him "the best actor of his generation, or at least pretty damn close."
Salt was seasoned by director Phillip Noyce, whose pedigree includes Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games. His camera work in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., chase scenes is not as elegant as traditional Hollywood-fare, but that's to his credit. With very little CGI, the film feels authentic, and it's clear that Jolie does much of her own stunt work.
By now, you've probably noticed I've revealed very little of the plot. I wouldn't want to spoil your fun. Salt is packed with secrets. Maybe you've seen the giant billboards that ask "Who is Salt?" I could answer that, but I think Angelina Jolie would kick my ass.