Angelina Jolie may be an Academy Award-winning actress, but she does not play a convincing man.
That’s just one of the things we’re asked to buy in the sleekly made action/spy adventure “Salt.”
At first, we’re not sure what to think. We just watch Jolie run from place to place and hop from moving truck to moving truck, wondering why the heck she’s doing it.
Eventually — much later — we do get answers, whether they make sense or not.
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Still, no one does pouty spy like Jolie, who commands every scene she’s in, and it’s fun watching her effortlessly get out of one impossible situation to the next.
Jolie plays the titular Evelyn Salt, a CIA spy who has trouble folding fancy napkins. That’s the most character development we get.
As shown in the trailers, the film’s plot is revealed when a Russian defector is brought in for questioning, just as Salt is leaving to spend the evening with her husband on their anniversary.
Salt is asked to interrogate the man before she goes, and he boldly announces — in an accent that even Mikhail Gorbachev could hardly understand — that Salt is a mole implanted by the Russian secret service.
Huh. Eyebrows are raised among her CIA colleagues, especially Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who wants her detained for questioning, and her partner, Ted (Liev Schreiber), who thinks the Russian is obviously lying.
They move the Russian to another part of the building while they ask Salt to wait in an interrogation room. Surprisingly, the Russian tries to escape and alarms are set off.
That’s when Salt goes on the run, worried about the safety of her husband, ignoring that fleeing will make her look guilty.
From there, Peabody and Ted hunt her down while Salt tries to get to a Russian diplomat who’s visiting New York City. She infiltrates both sides of intelligence, dyes her hair and dons not-exactly-realisticlooking disguises. Along the way, it’s revealed that things in general aren’t what they seem. Or are they?
No, seriously, are they? It gets a little confusing. There’s a lot of political mumbojumbo to sort through, which the clumsy script doesn’t make simple.
Reteaming with her director from 1999’s “The Bone Collector,” Phillip Noyce (“Rabbit Proof Fence”), Jolie saves the movie from spiraling out of control. Reportedly, she did a lot of her own stunts, and it’s refreshing to see good, oldfashioned stunt action (the role was originally written for a man and Tom Cruise was reportedly once attached to star).
But even Jolie can’t bring depth to the journey. It’s all strangely devoid of any emotional investment. By keeping us in the dark, we have no one to root for.
In the end, we’re left watching what we did in the beginning: Salt on the run. She has to get tired at some point.
I know I did.