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If ever a movie was smiled upon by the film exhibition gods, this is it. Only several weeks after the US government’s announcement that it had broken up a secret cell of Russian spies, and then arranged a spy swap with Russia, along comes Salt, and what’s it about? A secret network of Russian agents! And how you ask does it begin? Why, with a spy swap! (Okay, this one is with North Korea, but that’s close enough.)

But I don’t think Salt’s box office fortunes from here on will largely be determined by this contextual leg-up. They’re much more likely to be based on the star power of Angelina Jolie in the title role, the muscular martial hyperkinesis the movie puts her and the audience through, and Salt’s whizbang, explosive pacing. This one may well be a winner in the paid-admission sweepstakes.

Jolie is a CIA agent who goes on the run as a rogue when she’s fingered as a “mole” by a self-alleged defector. There follows over an hour’s worth of Bourne Ultimatum-ish pound-the-audience-into-appreciative-submission pyrotechnics as Salt is pursued by her erstwhile colleagues, with the occasional plot detail introduced during the rare pauses in the frenetic rush. None of it makes so much as a soupçon of sense, but do people really go to these things expecting them to make sense? Salt is a big, bombastic live-action anime, with loosely derived elements of The Manchurian Candidate, Flight of the Phoenix, and the Bourne movies. It also has a faintly musty scent of the Cold War era about it, even though it occasionally insists on its contemporary relevance. But who’s gonna care?

Jolie’s acting chops aren’t strained: she’s little more than writer Kurt Wimmer’s cartoonish creation. Those sterling performing artists Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor are along for the ride and chase; if only they had a bit more scope for their superior skills.

If you know what to expect from Salt, the movie will quite adequately meet those expectations.

george sax

Watch the trailer for Salt

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