"Primary or double agent, that is that is the question."

Salt

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


 

            Angelina Jolie had an image problem. For years each of her life steps has been flashed to the weekly tabloids. Faced with the inevitability of being better known as a celebrity than as an actor, Jolie - who has on occasion proven herself to be a very good actor - solved her problem by storming full tilt into the world of special effects action (See "Lara Croft, Tomb Raider"). With "Salt" she has finally and fully embraced that image by becoming "Angelina Jolie, Action Hero." It might be hard these days to believe her as Anna Karenina, but she is a credible marvel as Evelyn Salt, covert agent.

            "Salt" offers this premise: for decades the Russians have been educating certain children in all things American. They will be planted in normal American lives, available in a precise future moment for activation as agents in an enormous collective operation against America. What role does Evelyn Salt (Jolie) play in this espionage puzzle? Primary or double agent, that is the question.

            Along the way to resolution you will watch this super secret plant as she is tracked by both the Russians and the Americans. She uses her American resourcefulness to build a rocket from the hollow legs of a desk chair and to descend an elevator shaft floor by floor by leaping amongst the rigging; she lands in astonishing safety after jumping from a bridge to the roof of a semi, thence to a tanker truck, the river, and a helicopter.

            This is comic book action, pure and simple; but it's good fun to watch the foot racing through the tunnels below St. Bartholomew's Church in New York, through a bunker eight stories beneath the White House, and the streets of both cities. It succeeds as well as it does because Angelina Jolie looks at the forces arrayed against her with a "Bring it on" attitude. She is one actor who has the sense both on screen and off to keep her mouth shut and let the Russian agents of this film or the tabloids of real life do all the talking. We know her no better at movie's end than we did at the beginning which tells us she knows the secret to both celebrity and movie stardom: mystery. We never know what's in her mind. We can let our imaginations run on that blank slate.

            It's a coincidence of comic proportions that this movie that plants agents in the American landscape for a future purpose coincides with the deportation of twelve actual Russian agents who had been similarly planted in this country for a reason we have yet to fathom. What were they doing here? What was their future? It seems that Hollywood knows.

            "Salt" shares the marquee this week with the grimly impenetrable "Inception" that stars the ponderous, thudding Leonardo DiCaprio. In the superficial summer thriller sweepstakes Angelina Jolie, with a hefty assist from Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor, wins this one going away.

 


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