Starring Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber
The premise of Salt alone is enough to sell tickets: A CIA agent is interviewing a Russian man who wants to defect to America. The Russian knows the identity of a Russian spy, planted in the CIA, who is going to kill the Russian Prime Minister. The spy’s name is Evelyn Salt. The CIA agent replies “But that’s my name.” “Then you must be a Russian spy.” Now that’s a great way to start a movie. Salt (played by Angelina Jolie) goes on the run. Is she trying to clear her name or is she really a Russian spy? Unfortunately, the movie never manages to equal or better these opening moments.
Sure, there are some great action sequences. But as the movie goes on, these stunts become more and more unbelievable. At the start of the movie, she’s a well-trained woman acting out of desperation. By the end of the movie, she’s achieving super human feats. You’d think the CIA would have sent her to Iraq, because if the end of the movie is any indication, she could have singlehandedly defeated the entire Iraqi army and assassinated Saddam Hussein in about 45 minutes. The action sequences at the start had me interested. The sequences at the end had my snoozing. By the way, this is not a good thing. The performances are okay at best. It feels like everyone involved is just going through the motions. Worst of all, the relationship between Salt and her husband is severely underplayed. Which is a problem because this relationship is the lynch pin of the film. It needed a lot more screen time and a lot more attention to make it work. These two are meant to be crazily in love. At the end of the day, there wasn’t enough there for me to buy into it. And that hurts the movie.
The concept that drives the movie is the idea of Russian sleeper agents – spies who have slipped in quietly into American life and are waiting for their orders. They may be waiting for decades before they do anything. And you would never know. They would be your next door neighbour, your mate at work, the teacher at the local school. You’d never know they were a Russian spy until it was too late. This is not a fiction made up for the movie. Recently a whole bunch of Russian spies were uncovered in America. The problem is that from a story telling point of view, this is coming around 20-60 years too late. In the 50s, people were terrified that the communists were out to get them, that they were hiding behind every corner. That’s what makes movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers so successful as a movie – it plays to that fear. Even in the 80s, at the height of the Cold War, there was a fear that the war with the Russians would escalate and that the Russians would rise up and kill everyone. But now the Cold War is long gone. Russians just aren’t that scary anymore. Therefore SALT feels like a movie that should have been made about 25 years ago.
Salt wants you to consider the question: Who is Salt? Is she a CIA agent falsely accused of being a Russian spy? Or is she a Russian spy who has infiltrated the CIA? It’s an intriguing question. Let’s turn it on you. There’s a good chance, if you’re reading this, that you’re a Christian. But what about the public you, the one on display to everyone? Are you an undercover Christian? Underneath, your loyalty is to Christ, but no one would ever know it by looking at you. Your friends think you’re an everyday non-Christian. That is until someone asks you, in front of all your mates, how church was on Sunday. Suddenly, the truth is out there. How about looking at it from the other direction. You’re publicly a Christian. Everyone knows that you’re a follower of Jesus. But then someone will catch you doing something, or point out how you acted at that party on Saturday night. And they’ll ask you: are you really a Christian? Because a Christian wouldn’t act that way.
Neither of these situations are good. If you are part of God’s family, you can’t be living two lives. “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12) You can’t point people to God if you’re a closet Christian. And if you’re not living a Christian life that is beyond accusation, then you will struggle to show people how incredible our God is. There is no room for sleeper agents in the Christian life.
Salt is a movie with a great premise but lack lustre execution. It’s the kind of movie you see when you want to watch an action movie and don’t really care if the movie makes sense or offers anything more than a few gunfights.