Radio 08.06.10
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” and here’s my commentary on a film now showing at The Majestic Theater in Greenville :
“Salt” is a throwback movie.  Though set in the present, it hearkens back to the Cold War era, when the two world powers on the earth grappled clandestinely in the deadly, covert world of spy networks.  The desperation is high because the stakes are ultimate: the threat of nuclear holocaust is imminent and pervasive.  Both sides played at Armageddon scenarios, both sent secret agents deep undercover, preferably in the heart of the highest security clearances of the oblivious enemy.  Both dreamed of that one massive, bold stroke of genius, planning, and luck that would bring chaos, confusion, and destruction to their hapless adversary.  But what if that “x day,” so meticulously planned so long ago, in another era, was suddenly set in motion now?
“Salt” is Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie).  We first see her, almost unrecognizably, being tortured and beaten by the North Koreans in some hopeless jail cell for political prisoners, while continually insisting that she’s not a spy.  She’s suddenly released as part of a prisoner exchange, and is forever grateful to the German national who arranges her release, marrying him and seeming to “settle down” in the United States .  Now she appears to just operate a computer somewhere in the basement labyrinth of some national security office in Washington , D.C.   There are literally thousands of anonymous analysts like her.
But things change dramatically when a Russian defector, who claims to have terminal cancer, suddenly “outs” her as a spy.  Unable to prove she’s not, she manages to escape the clutches of her superiors, but not without some heart-stopping chase sequences through the streets of D.C. (the “buzz” is that Ms. Jolie did many of her own stunts, which makes these scenes even more impressive). 
With back-story flashbacks, we learn that Evelyn Salt was born in Russia , and after the death of her parents in a car wreck was raised in an orphanage, where she was recruited, along with other children without anyone to plead for them, for counter-espionage.  She learned American English and culture.  She was taught all manner of self-defense martial arts, and expertise in all sorts of weaponry.  Most of all, she was raised to be incredibly resourceful, practically fearless, and absolutely ruthless.  As a bonus, by personality she is also extraordinarily calculating:  she can repress any emotion, appear cooperative, and act as if everything is normal---and then strike lethally without warning.
The complicating factor is that Evelyn Salt was part of a whole school of these Russian counterintelligence terrorists, and many of her classmates are now apparently carrying out the mission they were trained all their lives to give their lives for:  the destabilization of the United States, and, if necessary, the assassinations of their own political leaders, as well, if that would contribute to the ensuing mayhem.  And, of course, it would.  It’s just that in the middle of all this we’re not certain, either, which side she’s on, or where her true loyalties lie.
Sure, “Salt” is improbable both in its macro-scope and its micro-invincibility.  But if you’re willing to suspend enough disbelief, it’s a salty little summer popcorn movie that, though lacking substance, smells delicious, tastes tangy, and looks irresistible.
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” for 93.5 KICK-FM