To be taken with a pinch of ‘Salt’


Who is Salt? Well, Angelina of course, which really says as much as you need to know. (Image courtesy Columbia Pictures)

Want to know how to really wreck a CIA super-agent's day? Walk into the Agency HG and announce said spook is really a double agent, trained from birth by the Russians to take out heads of state.

The world will know this to be true if it believes the central premise of "Salt" the relentless new action thriller starring Angelina Jolie. She plays Evelyn Salt, the agent accused by a loose-lipped Russian informer who knows enough to convince. Salt takes off, saying she wants to make sure her husband is safe. Soon everyone is chasing her including her longtime friend and colleague Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) and counter-intelligence agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is charged with shooting first and asking questions later when it comes to possible foreign agents wandering around the nation's capital.

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So is she a Russian agent or not? Kurt Wimmer's script keeps us guessing by repeatedly lobbing red herring into the series of frenetic chases which become a central feature in Salt's life. Her loyalties may be open to question, but Ev Salt's amazing ability to run, jump, drive, crash and any other possible ways of getting out of trouble cannot be challenged. She's pretty darn amazing, constructing large ordinance weapons out of household objects, and leaping across lanes of speeding traffic from truck to truck. And she does most of it with ne'er a grimace.

In other words it's classic Jolie. The day after I saw the preview I was astonished to see the movie being shown on the TVs at my local gym. Taken aback by the speed of this jump to video, even in this day and age, I paused to take in a couple of scenes. It was only after a short while that I realized this wasn't "Salt" on the telly, but "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" where Ms Jolie played exactly the same character.

As with most summer films "Salt" is best enjoyed by sitting back and not thinking too hard. There are some great thrills and spills during the epic chase scenes. There is even some tangible angst portrayed by Schreiber and Ejiofor as they wrestle with what to do as a colleague apparently goes rogue.

It's hard to stave off those glimmers of curiosity and wonder. How can someone blast away at a wall at short range with a machinegun without being worrying about ricochets? Can we really believe the intelligence services would be unaware of a decades long effort to plant huge numbers of moles inside Washington?

It can be done with a little effort (although I did start at when Ms Jolie, who is after all a United Nations Goodwill ambassador, growled "I will kill them all" at one point) and it's an effort that's probably worthwhile if only for the sake of summer fun.