Much like the Bond movies it's so eager to emulate, Salt is often ridiculous and unbelievable - but most of the time, that's part of the fun. I found myself saying, "Yeah, right" a lot during the film - and that did indeed feel right. Suspension of disbelief, when it's executed well, can be thrilling, and it was in this movie, even when my eyes were rolling about as much as one of the stuntmen (or women).
The other thing that struck me about this Angelina Jolie caper was how much it felt like a throwback. Oh, sure, it has many modern trappings, but the straight-ahead cleanly shot and edited action was rather refreshing when shots in some action movies don't last longer than two seconds.
It really pays to take notice of the credits. Three names stood out to me. Chief among these was director Phillip Noyce, who is best known on these shores for the two Harrison Ford Jack Ryan movies, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. He's a very solid action helmer, and this, I think, is his best American film.
Another name that stood out was cinematographer Robert Elswit. He's best known as Paul Thomas Anderson's regular DP, but he's also a very capable action shooter, having lensed the 1997 Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. And one of the editors is Stuart Baird, Richard Donner's regular editor who cut Casino Royale, the best Bond film of at least the past 30 years.
Their contributions make the action in Salt fun to watch. It felt almost old school in a way, watching action scenes in which I could tell who was slugging whom. That stands out in the era of whiplash editing that so marred the last Bond entry, Quantum of Solace, and pretty much any movie directed by Michael Bay.
Where Salt does come up a little short is in the humanity department. The gambit of Kurt Wimmer's twisty screenplay is that it doesn't want us to know for sure where Salt's allegiance lies, and that makes the story intriguing for awhile - but it also makes the character somewhat impenetrable. The saving grace is Jolie's considerable charisma - she made me want to root for her by sheer force of will.
I'm not sure if Salt has done well enough to warrant a follow-up, but I woudn't mind at all, especially since the future of the Bond franchise is uncertain. Her first adventure was like one of his martinis - I wasn't all that stirred, but I was definitely shaken.