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SALT

SYNOPSIS:
When defecting high ranking Russian agent Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) reveals that CIA officer Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is really one of several sleeper Russian spies within the US security network, Salt is forced to go on the run as she tries desperately to get her entomologist husband Mike (August Diehl) to safety. Her closest CIA colleague Ted Winter (Liev Schrieber) can't help her and internal security agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) wants Salt interrogated - or shut down. But Salt's training comes in handy as she evades the teams of agents after her, and makes contact with Orlov at his hideout, where his team is preparing to start world war three - with her help.

Review by Louise Keller:
Adrenalin-charged action, assured direction and a star turn by Angelina Jolie makes Salt the best condiment on the action thriller movie menu. Surrounding himself with top talent, director Phillip Noyce is in full control as he treats us to a gritty edge-of-seat experience in which the unlikely confluence of danger and glamour sit side by side. Kurt Wimmer's screenplay springboards the action and it never stops - with Jolie full throttle in a demanding physical role that has us reeling from the outset. With never a moment to take a breath, we are thrown headlong into an assassination plot with political ramifications in which loyalty, deception and revenge weave an intriguing tapestry.

Hero or patsy? Who is Salt is the question we are asked when an interrogation with a Russian spy puts Jolie's CIA agent under scrutiny. Is she a sleeper Russian agent instructed to assassinate the Russian President? Is it a case of mistaken identity? Or is there another even more complex answer waiting to be found? Jolie has never been better (or more beautiful) as the risk-taking Evelyn Salt who is vulnerable, feminine and likeable at the same time as being convincingly lethal.

Utilitarian is the new sexy, a phrase used by Salt's CIA boss Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber, excellent), demonstrated as Salt confounds her colleagues by using her nous and anything she has on hand (like her black panties which she casually tosses over the security camera as she makes her escape from the building). The thrills keep coming as the bare-footed Salt negotiates window ledges in high places, throws herself off bridges onto moving trucks, puts her foot down in nifty car chases as well as participating in heavy physical action with bullets flying. It's not just mindless action, there is a rationale to everything that happens including defining character. She's smart. Besides, we know she must also be a good person - after all, she even finds time (while on the run) to ensure her dog is safe.

Noyce knows how to shoot action and the editing is sharp too, while James Newton Howard's relentlessly effectively percussive score keeps up the tension. I like Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peabody from Counter Intelligence, whose inflexibility remains a constant right until the final act. This is a superior action thriller that gives us more than our money's worth and peppers our tastebuds for a possible sequel.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This is Lara Croft in the big league of the spying game and Angelina Jolie has the acting stretch marks to prove she can do grieving widow (as Mariane Pearl in A Mighty Heart, 2007) to any kind of action heroine, whether inspired by comics or James Bond. Indeed, Salt begins in a fashion reminiscent of Die Another Day (2002) where Bond (Pierce Bosnan) is getting pummelled in a North Korean prison ...

Kurt Wimmer's cleverly constructed spy thriller wastes no time on niceties: we just have to keep up. The story has a contemporary setting, although the belligerence between Russia and the US is overstated for the sake of the plot. Still, the real bad guys, orchestrated by Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski), are the masterminds; they've trained dozens of sleeper agents since childhood and fed them into the US security system, to be activated when required. He says Evelyn Salt is one of these, and it's time to act: Day X is at hand. This is the day that the evil plan is unleashed, leading the US into a world war.

Playing her closest colleague Ted Winter, Liev Schreiber is superb and so is Chiwetel Ejiofor as the internal security agent Peabody, whose mission is to capture her - or kill her trying. Salt's escape and subsequent chase is one of the stunt highlights of the film, drawing on not only the tried and true contrivances of traffic jams to block the way, but thrilling jumps from speeding trucktops to speeding trucktops, all after a gripping sequence inside the secret agency building itself .

Near the end of the film director Phillip Noyce stages the climactic twist and showdown with impeccable dynamics, well aided by the editing team.

But there are other action sequences worth the ticket price, notably one at Orlov's secret hideout, where crucial revelations and dramatic actions switch our point of view. Yet we remain unsure - is Salt a double agent or a triple agent? Did she really marry for love or for professional cover reasons? We swing on tenterhooks as the story reveals new angles and deeper layers, all the while hoping that Salt doesn't let us down. We want her to survive and succeed ... but what if she's rotten? That's the question over which Peabody also agonises at the end.

Noyce last worked with Angelina Jolie on The Bone Collector (1999) and they work just as well together this time. With Salt, Noyce reminds us he is not only a masterful and intelligent storyteller but one that is maturing in his style and improving in his technique. His creative team is a standout in every department. Let's hope they all come back for the inevitable sequel.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0


PHIL NOYCE VIDEO INTERVIEW
with Andrew L. Urban

SALT (M)
(US, 2010)

CAST: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski, August Diehl, Daniel Pearce, Hunt Block, Andre Braugher, Olek Krupa

PRODUCER: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Sunil Perkash

DIRECTOR: Phillip Noyce

SCRIPT: Kurt Wimmer

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Elswit

EDITOR: Stuart Baird, John Gilroy, Steven Kemper

MUSIC: James Newton Howard

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Scott Chambliss

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 19, 2010







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