Without the excuse of being a video-game vixen come to movie life — an explanation for the preposterous action of the “Tomb Raider” movies — Angelina Jolie’s character can only be justified for so long in “Salt.”
Evelyn Salt, CIA agent, is tossed from a freeway overpass onto a moving truck, shot in the side, dropped from a moving subway car and a helicopter, and beaten up by North Korean spies. She might have a hangnail, too.
Of course, this litany of abuse — all of it absorbed without so much as a limp — could describe the experience of most of this summer’s heroes, from “Iron Man 2” to “The A-Team” to “Knight and Day.” Actually, the dolls from “Toy Story 3” had a traumatic time of it, too.
So there’s no reason a woman shouldn’t get in on the, ah, fun. As it happens, screenwriter Kurt Wimmer wrote “Salt” for a male actor (Tom Cruise was attached for a while), but the transition for Jolie is effortless. Angelina Jolie seems so unreal anyway, we can accept her in this indestructible role.
The story’s an espionage thriller that begins with a nice kick: During an interrogation of a defector (Daniel Olbrychski), the Russian gives Salt the name of a CIA agent who is actually an old-school Soviet spy planning to kill the Russian president, who’s visiting D.C. the next day.
He further reveals that a network of Russian spies has been living in the U.S. for years as part of a deep espionage plot, creating lives and careers in an effort to blend in. I know, ridiculous, right?
The name of the double-agent comes as a surprise to all concerned, and kicks off a 48-hour chase that takes up the rest of the picture. All of which is pretty well-managed by director Philip Noyce (“Patriot Games”), even if the various twists and surprises are not entirely surprising.
But a decent filmmaker like Noyce can only do so much with yet another car chase, or yet another climax involving a computer and a ticking clock.
It’s still a generally enjoyable summer time-waster, with strong people such as Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor (“2012”) in main roles, and the chance to track Jolie running and jumping through an entire movie. She does all of that with great gusto, and the movie cruises along on her athleticism and cheekbones.