Jolie star power carries ‘Salt’

2010-09-06 00:00

SEEING James Bond bloodied and bowed in the clutches of North Koreans isn’t as troubling as perhaps it should be; after all heroes have to suffer a bit for the fans, and to get the plot going. But to see Angelina Jolie in a similar predicament is, quite simply, shattering. I mean, Lara Croft, where are you? Uberchicks in their undies at the mercy of evil undemocrats is way off script. And to see La Jolie bedraggled and clingy is beyond outrageous. It’s almost enough to make you ask for your money back. Why it’s okay for 007 to get smacked around and not the world’s most beautiful do-gooder and prolific adopter of strays I don’t know, but it rocks you.

Fortunately, after this painful opening sequence, our heroine, aka Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent of unusual resolve and homicidal dexterity, clicks back into Wonderwoman mode and the show is on.

Salt has been given lashings of extra spice after the affair of Anna Chapman et al, in which a bunch of Russian sleeper agents infiltrated parents’ associations and local bridge clubs as part of the Evil Empire’s comeback plan to bring America to its knees. So passé, but true. And the same goes for the plot ofSalt: nasty Russians wanting to unleash a global fury to annihilate America — so passé, but so what if its timing is out by 20 years if the story’s good.

Evelyn Salt, who was a man in the original draft of the story but through force of Angelina became a woman for the sake of the movie, is accused, in the first of the movie’s many twists, of being a deep undercover KGB agent, on a mission to kill the Russian president so that revenge missiles can be launched against America. Go see it if you’re puzzled; all will be revealed. Needless to say Salt does a runner, and with the FBI, the KGB and the CIA on her tail there’s guaranteed to be a lot of action. Most of it is, be warned, ridiculously implausible, in a way that doesn’t matter in the case of Lara Croft but in the real world of spy thrillers requires that much more indulgence. Indulge away: Salt ricochets from one impossible situation to another, the audience following her through sheer momentum rather than belief, especially since it’s never clear exactly which side she’s on and why.

The main drawback to an otherwise great ride, is that Salt is steeped in Cold War clichés, however much it tries to style itself as a post-Cold War thriller. The ideological trigger is rusty, and the setting is tired. That Jolie manages to overcome all of this is a tribute to her force of character. If ever star power carried a movie, this is it.

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