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Now in our eleventh calendar year!
PCR #539 (Vol. 11, No. 30). This edition is for the week of July 19--25, 2010.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

"SALT"  by Mike Smith
Starr Struck: Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band  by ED Tucker
Book Review: Empty Rooms Lonely Countries by Christian A. Dumais  by Lisa Scherer
Donald Richie: Japanese Scholar  by Jason Fetters
Paul Is Definitely Alive! .... Passing On .... Happy Birthday .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf  by Mike Smith

Columbia Pictures     
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 1 hour 40 mins

Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is an operative for the C.I.A. When we meet here she is being interrogated by the North Korean Army, who think she’s a spy. The bad guys are tough but Salt is tougher. Eventually she finds herself being traded back to the USA in exchange for one of theirs. “I thought we don’t jeopardize a mission for one person,” she asks her superior (Schreiber). “We don’t” is his reply. Two years later we find Agent Salt making plans for her anniversary dinner. As she prepares to leave she is asked to help interrogate a man who claims to be a Russian agent (Daniel Olbryschki) with a secret. He tells Salt that soon the Russian President will be assassinated by a sleeper spy in America. She hardly pays attention until he tells her something else: SHE is the spy.

Directed by Phillip Noyce, who has a fine eye for action set pieces (“Dead Calm,” a couple of the Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan films), “SALT” is a fine companion piece to “No Way Out,” Kevin Costner’s spy thriller from 1987. The audience is taken in several directions at once, with no clear destination in sight. Car chases across the Beltway. Foot chases through the Metro. Gun fights in a bunker eight stories below the White House. No matter the location the screen teems with action. Despite limited dialogue (during the screening my wife remarked that “it probably wasn’t too hard to learn her lines) Jolie manages to convey her emotions and her beliefs through her actions. Some of her encounters put her in pretty amazing situations and it’s a true credit to her that we find them believable. Schreiber is strong as her superior who is torn between believing her innocence and helping to track her down, as is Ejiofor (“Love Actually”) who is convinced she’s dirty.

Credit must also go to screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, who also wrote another great spy thriller, “The Recruit,” which starred Al Pacino and Colin Farrel. Here Wimmer imagines a school in Russia that teaches children at a young age the ways of America, going as far as making them watch episodes of “The Brady Bunch.” Very reminiscent of a 1989 film called “The Experts,” which starred John Travolta. Never heard of it? Don’t worry, it pretty much went straight to video and is probably best remembered as the film Travolta met the future Mrs. Travolta, Kelly Preston, on. The twists and turns Wimmer imagines are pretty intense. And educational. Did you know that if you taser a man who is driving a car the jolts will cause his muscles to involuntarily tense up and push the accelerator down. Now you do. I would be remiss if I didn’t give mention to film editor Stuart Baird, who skillfully conveys the action on screen at a breakneck pace. A fine addition to a resume that already includes such films as “The Omen,” “Superman,” “Lethal Weapon” and “Casino Royale.”

Wall-to-wall action plus a good script are truly a rarity in these days of 3D and vampires. On a scale of zero to four stars I give “SALT”  

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. This week's movie review of "SALT" is ©2010 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2010, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.