Salt –

So many of today’s female movie stars seem to have this overwhelming need to be LIKED in every role they take on. Sure, their characters can be plucky, stressed out, unlucky in love and on and on, but the one thing they can’t be is unsympathetic to the audience. They want the audience to watch them and say to themselves, “Gee, Jennifer/Drew/Sandra sure is suffering up there on the screen, but isn’t she still so CUTE?!?”

Thankfully, for every ten of those actresses, we get someone like Angelina Jolie, who could seemingly care less what you think about her, and this attitude serves her well in the preposterous and entertaining “Salt.” Whether it’s jumping from the top of one speeding truck to another, throwing herself down an elevator shaft, or being tortured by the North Korean Army, Jolie is never anything less than fully committed. She doesn’t have time to stop and let you adore her.

Originally a vehicle for Tom Cruise and then re-tailored for the actress, “Salt” tells the convoluted story of top CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Jolie). Released after years of captivity in North Korea, she’s now happily married to her spider-studying hubby and has a day job as a top interrogator for the Agency. During her interrogation of a potential Russian defector, it’s revealed that the Soviet Union has for years been training young children to be spies and has inserted them into the US Government. The final, most important, part of the revelation is that Salt herself is a Russian spy AND that she will be responsible for assassinating the Russian Prime Minister in the next few days.

This, naturally, raises major red flags for Salt’s bosses, Ted Winter (Liev Schrieber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Despite declaring her innocence, they aren’t listening. Salt, being the take-charge woman she is, takes matters into her own hand.

And the chase is on.

To reveal any more details about the plot would be to spoil the great fun that follows. Suffice it to say, there are twists and turns in Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay that stretch the limits of credibility, but somehow, it all works.

This is due in large part to the strengths of everyone working on and off-camera. Director Phillip Noyce (“Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger”) is an efficient storyteller who never lets the pace flag, but also knows when to slow the action for some much-needed character development. Schriber and Ejiofor bring the right amount of gravity to their roles.

But clearly, this is Jolie’s show from the first frame and she makes the most of it.  She’s going to take you on this ride with her whether you like her or not.

My guess is you’re gonna go. And you’re gonna like her.

SALT  Dir: Phillip Noyce; SCR: Kurt Wimmer; STARS: Anjelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor Rated PG-13

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