Movie Review: Salt

Movie Review:

By Mark HadleyMonday 16 Aug 2010

Rating:  M
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: August 19, 2010

Evelyn Salt is a female James Bond. In fact, that just about explains how Angelina Jolie came to bring this hard-hitting CIA agent to the big screen.

Jolie was joking with Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal a few years ago – as you do in Hollywood, I guess – just as the media empire was gearing up to distribute Quantum of Solace. Jolie said, “I want to be Bond!” and that, apparently is all it takes to set the wheels in motion. Even though Lorenzo di Bonaventura’s script was intended for a man, it came Jolie’s way.

Salt is an armour-piercing action flick shooting for the same target as 007 and The Bourne Identity. Jolie plays a CIA agent present when a high-ranking Russian defector, Vassily Orlov, turns himself in. While she is interrogating him, Orlov reveals that the former Soviet Union’s spy network managed to plant a number of sleeper agents in the United States:

Orlov: Today, a Russian agent will travel to New York city to kill the President … The name of the agent is Evelyn Salt.
Salt: My name is Evelyn Salt.
Orlov: Then you are a Russian spy.

The revelation touches off an explosive chase, and the fireworks continue as Salt strives to both prove her innocence and prevent the President’s assassination – at least that seems to be the idea. But Salt never convincingly settles why Evelyn is running, so audiences are left in doubt as to what colour hat she is wearing right to the final stages of the film.

Australian director Phillip Noyce, whose father was an Australian spy, came to the film fascinated with the idea of secrets in suburbia. “At a very early age, in my small town in the Australian outback, I’d spend my afternoons following people,” he says. “I was fascinated by the question of what might happen if long at rest sleeper spies were suddenly called to action.” Box office returns show the film has certainly touched a nerve in the US, opening in the midst of an international scandal involving eleven Russian sleeper agents. Their secret lives exposed, seemingly normal bank employees and software developers were deported for spying. Salt mirrors this real life drama, demonstrating the destructive power of secrets.

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Though Salt is primarily an action flick, the fear of exposure is something that every viewer will be able to identify with. Christians may have drawn the sting from the worst things people could reveal about them by admitting them first to God, but that does not mean the revelation won’t hurt. In fact the final judgment may include much that we would presently consider ourselves incapable of facing. However Salt shows that even Hollywood understands what can make the unbearable, bearable. When Evelyn faces the exposure of her own double life, her husband pleads with her, “I don’t care what you’ve done, just tell me,” and his support provides both strength and direction. As in the case of the Christian and Christ, one solid relationship can trump a lifetime of guilt.

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