Directed by Philip Noyce
“Salt,” the new action movie starring Tom Cruise – no wait – it was SUPPOSED to star Tom Cruise but now it stars that other gorgeous action hero Angelina Jolie. It’s an hour and forty minutes of fantastic chases, escapes, shootings and general mayhem. I had a very good time and so will you. It has everything from a Russian defector showing up at CIA headquarters out of the blue, to stunts involving leaping from truck to truck on the Interstate, to an assassination at St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York to – well, why give it away. There isn’t a believable moment in the film but I assure you you won’t mind. I can say that Angelina Jolie has gorgeous legs, probably a lot better than Tom Cruise’s, and she is at least as believable in the film as he would have been.
What is “Salt” about? Here’s the way it starts: The Russian defector shows up at Langley to say that a) he was a colonel in the KGB; b) he is dying of cancer; and c) that there is a Russian mole right at the CIA headquarters named Salt. Uh-oh, that’s Ms. Jolie’s name, or at least her nom de plume. Now what? Is he to be believed? Can we credit her denials? Before any action can be taken, she escapes and the chase is on. I can assure you that there is a great deal of mayhem before the denouement is reached, with dead bodies piling up during almost every scene. Liev Schreiber is her boss, Chiwetel Ejiofor is the security chief, and before we’re done the film brings in both the president of the United States and the president of Russia. I frankly think only Angelina Jolie could have brought “Salt” to life and made it work so well.
Obviously, when the script was written and the film shot, no one knew that the July 2010 headlines would be full of stories about real Russian moles who’d been planted in the United States years ago during the Cold War; you’d think the whole thing was contrived by Hollywood; it was of course just an astounding coincidence, but it was unnerving to see it coming to life before our eyes.
The film was directed by the Australian Philip Noyce, who made that brilliant view of racist life in Australia “Rabbit Proof Fence.” He has unfortunately muddied “Salt” up with a pounding score by James Newton Howard that underlines every melodramatic moment, but somehow the film survives. For a summer movie, “Salt” is a good way to beat the heat.