First things first: Salt is deliriously, wonderfully, stupidly preposterous; it’s implausible, it’s over the top, and frankly that’s the whole point. It’s 95 minutes of almost constant chase scenes, handled effectively and its lead is perfect in the role, doing action and acting and looking fantastic throughout.
From a script by Kurt Wimmer (he wrote and directed Equilibrium, so he knows about crazy action, and means that he is forgiven for anything he ever does again) that was originally about a male lead, the film is about Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie), a CIA agent who is accused of being a Russian sleeper agent and has to go on the run to clear her name and ensure that her husband is safe. That’s all you need to know about the film: the rest is a fun ride of Bourne-inspired action and well-constructed destruction and exciting shoot-outs, even if it seems unbelievable. It’s not that it is because it is a woman at the heart of the action – Jolie is far too good as an action star; it is because that the film goes for Bourne but has the physics-defying antics of the 1980s. When Jolie jumps off a bridge on to a truck, and then jumping on to another truck, it’s completely ridiculous, but you buy into it anyway because you’re too busy enjoying yourself.
Phillip Noyce directs with simple efficiency – he has handled action before in the likes of the Tom Ryan adaptations and the hilarious Rutger Hauer-starring Blind Fury (he’s blind swordsman!), but he’s got a diverse resume, including Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Quiet American, and also directed Jolie before in The Bone Collector, so he knows what he’s doing without being overly fussy, a style that works for the film. Jolie is excellent, the centre of attention even when she’s not saying anything; she is ably supported by the likes of Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor, but the film is all about her and she sells it completely (including the utterly ludicrous disguise in the last third of the film, at which point the entire audience laughed at the sheer stupidity). The film keeps you on your toes, providing genuine uncertainty about where it’s going (even if you can see some of the twists coming, you still enjoy it).
I enjoyed Salt, even though I knew it was preposterous as I watched it. It is not a great film but it does what it sets out to do and does it well, and Jolie cements her status as the best female action star working today, even if she is far too skinny to be plausible.