If you just so happen to turn up at a cinema this year, pick a random screen and plunk yourself down in your seat, the chances are you’ll end up seeing a movie where the motivation and purpose of the main character is in doubt and some federal agency is involved.

Salt follows on the back of Knight & Day and Killers and a million others of this ilk. The USP here is it takes itself very seriously indeed. There’s not a glimmer of a smile in the hour and a half. In fact, if you ignore lines like “Where did she go?” or “She’s over there!” or “There she is!” or “Urgh!” there’s probably around five minutes of dialogue in the whole film. So jokes aren’t exactly aplenty.

Despite this — or maybe thanks to this — Angelina Jolie has a huge screen presence and is immense in the lead role; infinitely better than Tom Cruise would’ve been when Salt’s gender was still male, as any one who has seen this and Knight & Day will surely agree.

Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a high-ranking CIA operative who’s fingered as a Russian spy by a recent defector. Rather than hang around  for five minutes to explain her side of things, she pulls a stunt with a fire extinguisher and some tubing and goes on the run. Cue some hair dye and facial prosthetics and more twists and turns than a big twisty turny thing as we’re made to guess where Salt’s true loyalties lie.

Director Phillip Noyce keeps things moving at breakneck speed, perhaps to keep the audience distracted from the fact that a lot of what happens doesn’t exactly make a lot of sense. Unless, of course, we can believe that Russian sleeper agents almost exclusively choose Federal Agencies as their employer of choice. At one point, I half-expected the US President to suddenly adopt a taste for vodka and a penchant for chess.

Failings and plot holes aside, it’s a pretty decent way to spend 90 minutes. Visually, the stunts are very impressive and, no meaning to kick a certain movie again, but it really does outshine the fake glossiness of Knight & Day. Angelina Jolie playing a real-life version of Frogger is quite breath-taking and the choreography of the fight sequences carry a certain art and style. As an action hero with little to say, she’s hugely convincing and entertaining. Also, Liev Schreiber (Scream) does a fine turn in a leading, if somewhat secondary, male role.

It’s not a classic by any stretch of the imagination — and as far as fugitive movies are concerned I have a tough time getting by anything after The Pelican Brief — and more focus on the script and plot would’ve been time well spent, but the idea of a sequel doesn’t appall me nearly as much as I thought it would.

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