While the Red Scare of the last century putting forth elaborate schemes concocted about a perpetually imminent Russian invasion if not nuclear annihilation, was the stuff of science fiction movies, today that alarmist fare is more likely to surface in, well, Salt. A far too self-serious hyperactive odyssey of a fugitive CIA operative fingered as a Russian mole, Salt boasts unearned narrative smarts that are peppered with plot points more on the order of just plain daffy.
Angelina Jolie sweats and flees through the spy thriller as Evelyn Salt, a female incarnation of the 90 pound weakling fantasy who can beat up burly men ten at a time, when not leaping off buildings and overpasses while sustaining barely a bruise. At least not scrapes that can’t be patched up in a pinch by a quick detour to a nightclub john, to wrap the inconvenient scratch with a feminine hygiene product from the dispenser. Was there a clause in the star’s movie contract that she’s got to be smarter, stronger and faster than everybody around her, or else?
So minus any suspense around not nabbing this indestructible petite killing machine, even if you are the entire beefy NYPD, FBI and CIA combined, the only mystery that remains is whether or not Salt is a Russian mole, a sleeper commie succumbing to Stockholm Syndrome, or in one scene, just a peeved spouse who can’t seem to master the knack of folding sexy dinner napkins to impress her spouse, a specialist in North Korean insects. Though she does excel in expertly wrapping her removed skimpy panties around CIA surveillance cameras to elude capture.
But all that changes one day when a Kremlin version of Dick Cheney turns up and claims to be outing the supremely sarcastic spy. It seems that the United States may be crawling with sleeper agents since 1975, who will rise up on Day X to kill the visiting Russian president, maim his US counterpart, and return Russia to it’s glory days as a superpower. And unleash the nuclear button with the code word, ‘whiskey’ to presumably detonate in the Middle East, and make Arabs really mad at America.
Salt would have benefited from a much less serious tone in light of its lunatic plot, while action sequences are strangely accelerated, seemingly to give credence to Jolie’s unconvincing superpowers in a contrasting story teeming with a grave sense of hyper-reality. Which would have made satire and a comic touch, even self-parody in cartoonish mode, the better choice.