Salt (Film highlight)

Columbia Pictures

In insisting on the moral ambiguity of its protagonist for most of its running time, Salt—famously the Spy Flick Rewritten for Angelina Jolie After Tom Cruise Dropped Out—gives us an action-hero prototype that Cruise couldn't play and Jolie was born to. From the start, this character plays to the star's strengths, merging subject and object, warrior and victim, ass-kicker and damsel-in-distress. CIA agent Salt is outed as a Russian double agent by Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski), her supposed comrade, who essentially just strolls into a covert CIA outpost and accuses her of treason. Salt's colleagues, taking Orlov at his word, slip into '70s-film paranoia mode and initiate an all-hands manhunt. Salt runs, managing to stay a step ahead of the feds and several steps ahead of the audience, all the while laying waste to dozens on either side of the apparent with-us/against-us divide. Salt is a highly satisfying, refreshingly unpretentious product. Director Phillip Noyce elegantly mashes up post-Bourne shaky-cam P.O.V. with gilded bombast straight out of his own '90s Jack Ryan films. That said, Salt's conception of world affairs would seem hopelessly retrograde if the U.S. hadn't hauled in a sleeper cell of Russian spies, like, last week.

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