Directed by: Phillip Noyce (The Quiet American)
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski, August Diehl
I’d bump this entertaining outburst up to four stars, if someone could convince me that it was meant to be funny. I suspect it was—at least as far as director Phillip Noyce is concerned—but considering that screenwriter Kurt Wimmer wrote and directed the idiotically funny Ultraviolet (2006), the jury must remain out. A better guess might be that Noyce read the screenplay and decided there was only one way to do it. It would be hard to blame him. It would be hard to imagine what else he could do.
I settled back—unenthused by the trailers and what I knew of the plot—but still prepared to assume that the film had some degree of seriousness or at the very least a smidgen of plausibility. I retained this through the prologue and the setup—the latter being an extended version of what we see in the trailer, where a Russian defector, Orlov (Daniel Olbychski), accuses CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) of being a Russian spy. My resolve to take this movie even slightly seriously started to weaken when Orlov made his escape from the CIA by way of wearing a Rosa Klebb shoe with a retractable knife in the toe (he probably picked it up at a Lotte Lenya estate sale). By the time our heroine had taken off her panties to obscure a surveillance camera with them and turned an office chair into a makeshift cannon, there was no resolve left—I just wanted to see how ludicrous the film could get. I can fairly say it surpassed my wildest dreams in this regard.
Overlooking the amusement value of Angelina Jolie running through the streets of D.C. in a tight-ish slit skirt and minus her shoes, let’s instead jump to her checking out her apartment in the hopes of finding that her arachnologist (I’m not kidding; it’s part of the plot) husband Mike (August Diehl, Inglourious Basterds) hasn’t been kidnapped. Of course he has. But this affords her the chance to pick up some firepower (“cleverly” hidden from spider-hubby), pack a knapsack, put on more suitable attire, steal a spider (might come in handy) and pet the dog. All the while, the CIA are breaking in, but no sooner have they lobbed some kind of gas bomb into the apartment than we find Salt doing a Harold Lloyd impersonation on the building ledge. The inevitable neighboring child lets her in. At this point, I asked my viewing partner, “Do you suppose she has the dog in the knapsack, too?” Damned if she didn’t. It’s that kind of movie.
After this, it becomes unrealistic. It’s Salt avoiding her pursuers by bounding from the top of one moving vehicle to another or stealing a motorcycle right out from under its rider. It’s Salt flying through the air. It’s Salt leaping from side-to-side down eight stories of elevator shaft. It’s Salt outwitting both the CIA and the NSA by looking up “church tunnels” on the Internet. She dyes her hair black, making her look like a cross between Cher and Morticia Addams—talk about inconspicuous. (Later on, she makes herself look like k.d. lang and that’s really scary.) Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor, both playing CIA officers pursuing Salt, mostly look grim and take turns defending or damning Salt until the amazing climactic revelations. The film leaps from one incredible blast of preposterosity to another with wild abandon—and to such a degree that it may not be good, but it sure is entertaining. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.