A protagonist on the run with a need to prove his/her innocence is not an original concept; but with Salt, Angelina Jolie joins the ranks of great women cast in roles written for men – in this case Tom Cruise dropped out and Edwin Salt became Evelyn Salt.
As a CIA officer, Evelyn Salt (Jolie) swore an oath to duty, honour and country. But her loyalty is tested when a defector accuses Salt of being a Russian spy. She goes on the run, using all her skills and years of experience as a covert operative to elude capture. Salt's efforts to prove her innocence only serve to cast doubt on her motives as the hunt to uncover the truth behind her identity continues.
The action/chase sequences are captivating as Salt attempts to elude her captors on a busy American highway by jumping from the top of one travelling truck to another. Interestingly, as Salt’s prowess as a trained killer is established, bodies begin to simply appear and not every knockout is performed on camera. Nonetheless, her abilities are nearly unmatched and Jolie is perfectly cast.
Jolie has become a female action hero with roles in films such as Wanted, Tomb Raider, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith – and though she appears comfortable, she’s not been pigeon-holed. These roles allow Jolie to showcase her incredible physical fitness, as well as skills she’s picked up along the way. Conversely, an element that feels more prominent here than in some of Jolie’s other hard-hitting characters is her femininity. Salt is tough, but she’s also very much in love with her husband and home life. (Oddly, the blonde also somehow softens her).
The conspiracy built to drive the film’s plot is quite complex and fascinating, and includes a new scheme behind President Kennedy’s assassination as well as a sleeper cell program that positions Russian agents as high-ranking U.S. officials. The culmination is to be “Day X,” a large-scale strike against the United States and her allies. It’s interesting that the Russians re-emerge here as a major threat to U.S. security after years of other more prevalent countries being cinematically demonized.
In the end, the marketing tactic of pasting “Who is Salt?” everywhere is very consistent with the film’s characters’ full throttle quest to discover the answer to the same question.