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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

ANGELINA Jolie is no stranger to kick-ass roles, having displayed her action credentials to impressive effect in the likes of Tomb Raider, Wanted and Mr & Mrs Smith.

With spy thriller Salt she gets her shot at a ‘Bond with boobs’ variation that marries super-slick, post-Bourne style action with plot elements that could be ripped right out of recent headlines.

And for the most part it works tremendously well, until a final third descent into laughably OTT territory deprives it of instant classic status. It does, however, remain enjoyable, while setting up the possibility of a sequel that its early work deserves.

Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a happily married CIA agent, who suddenly finds herself forced to go on the run after she is accused of being a Russian sleeper spy intent on assassinating the visiting Russian president and kick-starting World War III. But is she all that she seems?

Attempting to find out are Salt’s former partner (Liev Schreiber) and a counter intelligence expert (Chiwetel Ejiofor) with few loyalties apart from determining the truth.

Phillip Noyce’s movie takes elements of countless spy films (from Bourne to Bond via Air Force One) and weaves them into a fast-moving, tense affair that certainly keeps you guessing for the first two thirds.

But then the director is no stranger to the genre, having previously directed Harrison Ford in two Jack Ryan films (Patriot Games/Clear & Present Danger), as well as working with Jolie on The Bone Collector.

Jolie, too, marries a convincing athletic ability with a stone cold killer’s instinct, as well as traces of humanity and vulnerability… emerging as both a credible action heroine operating in a man’s world and an intriguing potential double agent. And there’s typically solid support from both Schreiber and Ejiofor.

Several of the action scenes also deserve to stand alongside the best that the genre has to offer, with an extended getaway early on (involving trucks and motorbikes) particularly memorable, as well as a slick assassination attempt.

But Noyce and company can’t help but allow Salt to run away from them in the final third, culminating in a snigger-inducing White House siege scenario that strains credibility a little too far.

It’s then that Salt becomes peppered with bad Bond memories and the type of dubious politics that made Air Force One so laughable, while dropping in two supposed ‘twists’ that the more discerning viewer will have seen coming a long time in advance.

It’s at this point, too, that some of the film’s weaker elements become more apparent, such as the lack of decent screen-time really afforded to actors of both Schreiber and Ejiofor’s calibre, or a killer No Way Out style twist that would really have made the film memorable.

Taken with a pinch of salt, Noyce’s thriller is worth checking out for the thrill of the chase, as well as another strong performance from its feisty leading lady. But it also feels like a missed opportunity that any future film could yet resolve.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 100mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: December 13, 2010