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Monday, June 27, 2022

Movies

Perfectly crafted, no ‘Salt’ needed


Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent who is accused of being a Russian double agent. ‘Salt’ comes in on a stagnant summer movie season and does a good job of keeping the audience entertained. | Columbia Pictures

After a lukewarm summer full of so-so movies, Salt looked like it would fall right in line with the likes of Predators and The Last Airbender.

It’s always nice to be surprised.

Salt starts just like it ends — with a jolt of adrenaline. The first time we are introduced to Angelina Jolie, she’s in an internment camp in North Korea drinking gasoline cocktails and swearing she’s not a spy. Fast-forward two years and Salt is back to work, posing as an oil executive when she really works for the CIA.

From there it’s hard to continue talking about the story, because it throws more curveballs than a professional pitcher. And that’s why Salt succeeds so well.  It throws caution to the wind and immediately starts trying to spin a conspiracy so big it is almost impossible to resist its pull. It is, without a doubt, one of the coolest spy thrillers to come out in the past few years — better than the Bourne series or the latest Bond movie.

What makes Salt a step above other spy movies is its coherent (yet twisting) plot, concisely filmed action scenes and Russia once again taking the spotlight as the main villain. It doesn’t matter what movie it is; if the Commies are the main bad guys, it’s already better. It also — and I didn’t think this was possible — makes Angelina sexier than she already was (and the blonde hair didn’t hurt, either).

The action is plentiful and merciless; throughout the course of the movie, Salt pistol-whips, blows up, gasses, and karate kicks her way through a small army of generic bad guys. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing someone take the business end of a handgun to the face at a thousand miles an hour, especially when it’s Brad Pitt’s better half delivering the punishment.

As far as the conspiracy goes, it’s fairly standard; the USSR planted double agents in the U.S., they’re all waiting to strike, it’s going to ruin America, so on and so forth.  It’s a decently thought-out idea, and it’s put to good use, but it could have been wound a bit tighter; after seeing Inception weave such a complicated yet understandable narrative, it’s somewhat disappointing to see just an OK plot. However, whenever the movie starts to drag even the tiniest bit the blood starts flowing once again, making for a well balanced and carefully directed final product. Phillip Noyce (the director) is no stranger to spy films, having sharpened his skills on Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Quiet American. He films each fight scene well, keeping the camera steady (something the Bourne series needs to learn) and showcasing just how much time Angelina put in learning kung-fu. He does a good job with the chases too, making sure that the audience always knows where the good guy (or in this case, girl) is going and how close the bad guys are to catching her.

Salt is a perfectly executed genre movie. It doesn’t break out and do anything out of the ordinary, but that’s perfectly fine when the finished product is clean and fun to watch. By the end of the movie, you’ll know exactly just who Evelyn Salt really is — and you’ll end up wanting to see more of her.

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