Countless films portray a hero who must clear their name from sinister accusations while attempting to hunt down those that framed them. This should have been one more. Instead, the filmmakers determine to double-cross, triple-cross, and quadruple-cross both Salt and the audience to the point that few will still be able to root for the title character. Even if you’re able to put the spy’s political and governmental loyalties aside, you’ll still likely lose interest in what she intends to do next. At least high-speed car chases, hand-to-hand combat and heavy property damage rarely disagree with action junkies.
When highly-trained CIA agent and counterintelligence expert Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is accused of being a spy during the interrogation of a defector, she breaks away from her fearful colleagues in an attempt to prove her innocence. The defector is Russian extremist Orlov, who points the finger at Salt, endangering the life of her German husband Mike Krause (August Diehl) and putting her longtime friend Ted Winter (Live Schreiber) and his superior Agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) hot on her trail. As she inches closer to revealing those that betrayed her, she becomes involved in assassination attempts on high-ranking political officers and a multifarious plot to destroy the very country she’s struggled so diligently to defend.
The violence in the film may not be as severe as the kind witnessed in other recent works, but it does appear that just about everyone, antagonists and protagonists alike, get to punch Angelina Jolie in the face. Salt can take a beating like the best of them, but at times it feels unnecessary, especially when she goes to great lengths to charitably maim her targets. The remaining intensity is derived from the action sequences, mostly effective during lengthy on-foot chases, precarious stunts in heavy traffic, shootouts and fistfights. Fortunately, despite Salt’s conspicuously starved physique, she’s trained to outsmart and combat every soldier placed in her path.
Shortly after Orlov announces that Evelyn is a spy, Ted inquires whether or not it matters how much good she’s done for her country and if that entitles her to at least a marginal benefit of the doubt. He doesn’t get an answer. But the real question is, “what exactly has she done for her country?” This is important because the only sacrifice we see her make is a brief moment of torture and captivity by South Korea – the rest of the movie forces the audience to seemingly root against the U.S. government, which is an incredibly difficult task. With all the compromises, sleeper agent possibilities, backstabbing, questionable allegiances, multiple origins, and uncertain ethnicities, the truth behind Salt is just complex enough that no one on the “right” side could believe her, and perhaps neither will the audience. The hopeful cliffhanger conclusion sums up the undecided direction of the entire project, balancing between an outdated Cold War thriller and a tired “wrong man” adventure.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)