Angelina Jolie stars as Evelyn Salt, a top CIA agent accused of being a sleeper KGB agent, in this action flick by Australian director Philip Noyce. Now stuck in a Hollywood action rut, Noyce’s mostly admirable back catalogue includes Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Quiet American, Clear and Present Danger, and the 1997 film version of The Saint. Salt goes on the lam after she’s accused of having been trained to assassinate the Russian president and put into action a sequence of events that would see the US President (bizarrely cast here as yet another boring old white man) push the Big Red Button and start a thermonuclear war. The film also stars Live Schreiber—slumming it as Salt’s long-time colleague and head of the CIA’s “Russian House” counter-intelligence operation; himself a possible double agent—and Don Cheadle Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peabody (a pretty white name for a black dude, right?), an agent in pursuit of the runaway spy.
Jolie can’t really do much more than stare at people with her genetically freakish puppy-dog eyes and purse her equally absurdly gargantuan collagen-filled lips, so complaining about her inability to bring any sense of theatricality or drama to the proceedings is about as much use as banging my head against a brick wall. (Her grenade-throwing skills are top-notch, though.) Roger Ebert isn’t wrong when he says, in his four-star review (his highest possible star rating), that “this movie has holes in it big enough to drive the whole movie through.” (I’m not sure he even knows what he meant by that. The nonsensicality of that sentence alone should give you an indication of how many brain cells you might lose by consuming this trash.)
Aside from having a totally predictable, dumb-as-a-plank/thin-as-candyfloss story, this movie also has a lot of explosions in it. If that’s what you’re after in a cinematic experience, you’ll have probably not read this far down the page. For everyone else, I have this tidbit: the lead role was written with Tom Cruise in mind, but the scientologist couch-jumper passed on the opportunity because he felt the character was too similar to Ethan Hunt of the Mission Impossible franchise. A pity, because he could have bought some needed self-deprecation to proceedings: SALT takes its James Bond-like premise with ridiculous sincerity—instead of with a grain of…—and becomes bombastic but banal in the process. The gaping open end of the narrative leaves room for a sequel which will probably quickly balloon into a franchise. I hope they call the next one SALT 2: Ready Salted, because at least then you’ll know they’re taking the piss just a little bit.