With the end of Bourne, and the Bond series on hold due to MGM’s financial difficulties, cinema-goers and studios are looking desperately for the next big spy franchise. It’s of no surprise, then, that Sony have been plugging the release of Salt for a good few months now, stirring up mystery with the ‘Who Is Salt?’ banners that have been circling the internet and plastered over the walls of your local multiplex.
Directed by Phillip Noyce, Salt centres on Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie), a seemingly normal undercover C.I.A agent – one that managed to keep her identity secret even when being tortured by North Koreans – married to a German, who doesn’t know her true occupation. Evelyn, when interrogated a Russian named Orlav (Daniel Olbrychski), is labelled as a secret double agent, much to her, and her colleagues’, surprise. Salt then spends the remainder of the film on the run from her boss (Liev Schreiber) and almost every cop in the United States of America, including ONCIX agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who seems determined to finish her.
Despite mirroring the premise of Bourne, or certain Bond films, Salt avoids overstuffing the film with dialogue, instead opting to notch the action up another level, ensuring audiences remain engaged throughout the films running time. Noyce, a relative newbie to the genre, crafts an intriguing, suspenseful and fast-paced spy-thriller, never lingering too long on sub-plots or secondary characters.
Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay is relatively flawless. It’s nimbleness keeps the audience guessing as to who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy, who works for who, who knows what and, overall, how the film will conclude. The only weakness would be the rather pointless opening and closing sequences, both hindering the enjoyment of the film as a whole. The script keeps the action tight, never lingering too long on sub-plots or secondary characters.
Casting Jolie as Evelyn really was a triumph. Having dabbled in action films before, Jolie uses what she learned on Wanted and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, while upping the testosterone gage and displaying a whole new level of versatility in terms of what she can do as an actress. Salt offers Jolie a new platform, the potential to kick-ass in a franchise of her own. The supporting cast, most notably Schreiber, Ejiofor and Olbrychski, do their best with their limited screen time, but never really breaking out of their comfort zones.
Nevertheless, Salt is solid, fast-paced action-thriller, showcasing Jolie’s raw versatility as an actress. Noyce has a talent for crafting tension, managing to avoid common cliches, whilst keeping audiences engaged. A sequel is inevitable, which is no bad thing in my eyes.