Beaten, bruised and bleeding, Angelina Jolie proves she’s made of tough stuff in Salt’s rib-bashing opening scene. As the eponymous CIA agent Evelyn Salt, she’s been kidnapped by North Korean forces, who torture her in ways that only members of a country led by Kim Jong-Il possibly can. Freed from that sticky situation, she’s quickly hurled into a cat-and-mouse game of international espionage when a mysterious Russian apparently outs her as a Russian spy.
Salt really wants to be a female Bourne Identity. With its never-ending running scenes (does Salt ever sleep?), inscrutable lead, and DIY heroics (love the sanitary towel bit), there’s a reason it’s been dubbed ‘Bourne with boobs’.
Sadly, Salt isn’t as good as that, falling more into the Mission: Impossible camp – camp being the operative word, with polished action set-pieces failing to push the peril, meaning we never really fear for our anti-heroine’s safety. Silliness case in point: a moment in which Jolie does a gender bender and dons a silly rubber mask echoes that daft bit in Mission: Impossible II when Tom Cruise makes himself look like Dougray Scott.
To her credit, Jolie’s as gung-ho as you’d expect her to be. If you’re going to bet on any woman being able to beat a grown man twice her body weight to a pulp, your cash is safe with her. And yes, somewhere amid the (non-stop) double crosses, shoot-outs and face-offs, Salt is a decent movie.
It’s just a shame it never manages to follow through on that ‘female Bourne’ mission statement. Though the focus rarely splits away from our lippy lovely, Salt’s afforded little genuine depth, meaning we’re as in the dark about her as the Americans she’s evading. Yes, that’s partly the point, but a more skilful script would have found ways to weave the enigmatic with the obvious in better ways.
Thanks to decent box office returns, a Salt 2 is on the way. With this first sporadically entertaining actioner having laid the groundwork, here’s hoping a sequel can finally fulfil that promise of Bourne-like thrills. 3/5