Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly;
the faithful have disappeared from humankind.
They utter lies to each other;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
The psalmist could be describing those who populate CIA agent Evelyn Salt’s (Angelina Jolie) world. At the beginning of the thriller her bound, almost naked body is being beaten by brutal North Korean guards. Then she is taken to the DMZ and welcomed to freedom by her CIA superior, Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber). He gladly tells her that her lover Mike (August Diehl) had so pestered the U.S. authorities that they at last brokered an exchange with the North Koreans. There follows a brief time of warm, domestic bliss. Mike, an arachnologist, delves into his study of spiders, and Evelyn works a desk at a CIA cover agency, supposedly an oil company. The evenings are all theirs.
Then comes the day when, as Evelyn is leaving her office, she is summoned back because her area of expertise is Russia, and a defector from that country named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski is being questioned. He claims that years earlier a large number of children had been isolated by the Russian secret police and raised as Americans and then dispatched to live in the USA. They were to infiltrate themselves into agencies where they could be of service to their mother country. His last revelation is that the American name of one of those children is Evelyn salt.
Evelyn manages to flee the heavily guarded building, there following an incredible series of escapes that include her jumping from the roofs of various trucks traveling fast on Washington’s freeways. Ted Winter cannot believe that she is a spy, but FBI agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is assigned to her case, points out that her flight proves her guilt. When she manages to sneak through security and shoot the Russian president, in this country to attend the funeral of the U.S. Vice-President, even Winters grudgingly agrees that she must be a double agent.
Director Phillip Noyce, ably aided by stunt expert Simon Crane and a host of stunt people, has crafted a thriller that only an athletic star like Jolie could convince us to believe in. The plot seems ridiculous, and yet recent headlines about a group of Russian agents implanted in our country also contributes to the timeliness of the tale. Salt takes me back to long-gone days at the movies when on weekends there was always an episode of a serial, which always ended with the hero/heroine seemingly doomed, but then the following week we learned how by cleverness, skill, or brawn, the character would escape. Nice thing about Noyce’s film is that we don’t have to wait a whole week until we see how Jolie survives each threat to her life.