I miss the Soviets. Remember when their villainy ruled every movie? They were cold, heartless villains who wanted to destroy our way of life because it was evil, or decadent, or whatever. They wanted to invade our country (Red Dawn) and even beat us at sports (Rocky IV), and in general were just the best movie villains since the Nazis. But then we started to realize they weren't so bad after all, just people like us trapped on the other side of a political divide. We worked with their cops (Red Heat), accepted their defectors (Moscow on the Hudson, The Hunt for Red October) and showed their sleeper agents how great America could be (Little Nikita). There's a little bit of Little Nikita in Salt, but thankfully, the sleeper agents in this movie are, by and large, totally evil douchebags. The Soviets are back, baby!
You've seen the commercials -- when a Russian defector identifies CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) as a Russian spy, Salt goes on the run to prove her innocence. But what they don't show is the opening scene, where Salt is being brutally tortured in her underwear by the North Koreans on suspicion of being an American spy (which she is). Or that she's trying to find her missing husband, who may be in danger from the same Russian who fingered her. And they don't show how she kills (or nearly kills) numerous American agents in her attempts to escape. In fact, whether she actually is a Russian spy or not is somewhat open to interpretation until halfway through the movie. Not that it matters -- Salt is a woman on a mission, and anyone who stands in her way has a big target on their back. Or face. Or jugular vein.
The idea of Russian sleeper agents living among us, which would have seemed old-fashioned six months ago, has recently been shown to be an ongoing concern, taking the premise from "old-fashioned" to "uber-timely." And it hardly has time to register as a throwback plot, anyway, because once the action starts the film rarely slows down, and the frenetic pacing often approaches Bourne levels, especially in the scene where Salt jumps from moving truck to moving truck on a major highway. The film was clearly made with today's moviegoing audience in mind, and its star as well -- Jolie is so much fun to watch. She does better flat-out running than even Tom Cruise (who was once attached to star), and seeing her kick off a wall to punch a guy is any action nerd's dream come true. Because while this isn't Jolie's first action movie, it's definitely her best. You may disagree just on principle, but while Mr. and Mrs. Smith was all about the gag, and Wanted was all about the effects, and the Tomb Raider movies are all about the MacGuffins, Salt makes it all about Jolie. And the Jolie, my friends, is good.
Oh, and Liev Schreiber is in it. I love Liev Schreiber. Ditto Chiwetel Ejiofor. With all the Jolie, it kind of slipped my mind. Did you see the movie? Let us know what you thought below, then read our guide to Angelina's deadliest roles and see what Tom Cruise roles she should have played!
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