Pros: Takes a dozen bits from bad action movies, and makes it work. Angelina Jolie.
Cons: Don't try any of this at home.
Salt (2010) Directed by Phillip Noyce
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.
Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is a spy. She works for the CIA, so she knows when she is captured in North Korea, there is no rescue. So she is shocked when she is traded for another spy. It seems her husband threatened to raise such a stink, it was less trouble for the Agency to admit her wrong doing than endure the media rain of fecal matter. Michael Krause (August Diehl) knows two things; spiders, and that he loves his wife.
Years later, a spy comes in from the cold; Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) has rather shocking information. Under Evelyn's interogation, he spins a shocking tale. A Russian sleeper agent will assassinate a key political figure. And that agent is Evelyn Salt. Evelyn knows enough that the first thing she does is call her husband; she can't get him. And she knows what that means.
Evelyn runs. Now the question becomes, is she a Russian spy out to cause World War III, or is she a woman determined to save her husband?
Her boss Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) certainly wants to know. Special Agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) doesn't care; he just wants her contained so the truth can be sorted out at leisure. But does Michael have leisure time?
This is a spy thriller in the finest tradition of Mission Impossible. That describes much of Salt's stunts, leaping from one moving vehicle to another, defeating groups of three and four trained federal agents; building bombs of common house hold items. But who cares? This is not a documentary. This is a spy thriller, emphasis on thriller. And it is thrilling. One thing Noyce understands is pacing, and how to hold the tension in the slower segments without stretching your nerves past the breaking point. The stunts and fight scenes are brilliantly choregraphed, and the whole thing is a thrill ride designed to keep you off balance. Personally I love that in a movie.
Angelina Jolie carries the movie, and she does it well. She did much of the stunt work herself, and I am impressed because she moves like a parkour champion on crack. So slender and elegant, she seems far too fragile to do the things she does. Then again, Spiderman would be hard pressed to keep up with her. When she is holding still, which is not that often, she is everything a female spy should be, beautiful, intelligent, and unfathomable. I can see her killing James Bond.
The other performance of the piece is Chiwetel Ejiofor. He delivers the intense performance of a man in over his head who is just looking for the surface.
Noyce uses a hundred cliched tricks from dozens of bad action movies, and proves that they can be done right, and the fault was not with the concept, but the execution. He seems to subscribe to the philosophy, if you are going to break the rules, break them big. And it works. It works in a big way.