Salt

Imagine someone close to you accuses you of betrayal. What would your reaction be? Disbelief? Shock? Anger? Or would you dismiss it as another play from someone willing to do anything to get to you? The options are endless. How about the source? Where did the accuser get their information? How reliable is it? Does the source have a history of exaggerating facts with wild suggestions and ideas? Has the source proven unreliable in the past? The motive can be anything. What if the conspiracy is so farfetched that it would be difficult for anyone not to believe the accuser? Salt is this week’s highlight for Women Who Wow Wednesday.

Angelina Jolie is Evelyn Salt
Angelina Jolie is Evelyn Salt

Initially securing Tom Cruise as Edwin Salt, an undercover operative, the film’s writers had to rework the script after Cruise had abandoned the project and Angelina Jolie stepped in to fill his shoes. The first order of business was the name change from Edwin Salt to Evelyn Salt.

Not wanting to give away any plot points or even discuss anything about Evelyn Salt’s covert predicament since it would suggest some form of spoiler, I’m going to concentrate only on one particular event in the film—the interrogation scene and everything leading up to it.

In a dank prison in North Korea, Evelyn Salt undergoes extensive questioning. Let’s not kid ourselves—she’s tortured. The North Koreas accuse her of being an American spy. They have evidence she’s working for the CIA. She denies it. They don’t believe her. They drag her from her cell wearing just her bra and panties. They restrain her and ask again if she’s working for the CIA. She again denies it. They hold open her mouth, stick a tube down her throat and pour into it a nasty liquid. It’s not certain if it’s oil or gasoline.

She chokes, denies ever working for anyone, and begs for mercy. Her spine-chilling screams echo throughout the prison. But she doesn’t give them anything. Again, they torture her in an attempt to compel her to talk. And again, she gives them nothing.

It isn’t until her boyfriend kicks up a fuss with the American Embassy, sending letters to Congress, and igniting a political firestorm that her tormentors release her into the hands of the CIA. Battered and bruised, she falls under the comforting arm of her boss and wonders aloud why they released her—she should be dead. Her boyfriend loves her so, and because of that love and political pull, she again saw the light of day.

Evelyn Salt
Evelyn Salt

Two years later a Russian defector surrenders to the CIA and Salt is brought in to interrogate him. Naturally, the CIA tactics contrast those of the North Koreans in that Salt calmly sits on one side of a table in a cold, yet highly watched room, while the defector sits on the other.

He has something to tell her. Something very important. Something that will change her life forever. But how credible is he? Can she trust him? Where did he get his information? Who is his source?

And this is why I love the character Evelyn Salt. In her time of uncertainty, her vulnerabilities are her greatest strengths. Her intuition is her best defense. She withstood torture, degradation, and even cheated death, but never gave up in her time of almost-permanent defeat. As shocking as her agony was, her victory came with her silence protecting the government with whom they had accused her of conspiring.

Author’s note—There, I hope I didn’t reveal too much. Those were the first ten to fifteen minutes of the film. Yeah, no kidding. Trust me when I say, Salt is one of the most interesting characters I’ve had the opportunity to research. I may write a Part II to this post one day. We’ll see, though.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

If you’ve seen Salt, have you ever felt like you needed to watch the movie again? What did you like about Angelina’s portrayal of the protagonist?

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20 thoughts on “Salt

  1. I really enjoyed Salt. I loved Angelina Jolie in it too – she plays tough but emotional characters very well. The plot was twisty enough that I’d watch it again, especially now that I know (from comments) that there is another version! Great post, Jack!

  2. Angelina Jolie is really great in this role. I like the way she can be feminine and tough at the same time. She was the first actress I ever saw doing that, and it was really inspiring to me. I was going to ask if you would do a post on Lara Croft as well, but I see you already did one!

  3. Salt is a great character! I was on the edge of my seat throughout the movie! I didn’t know that Tom Cruise was meant to play Salt. I’m not particularly fond of either him or Miss Jolie, but it’s cool that they did the same story with a female lead.

  4. Salt is definitely worth watching again, especially because there are three versions of the film. It is very intriguing, never gets dull, and Angelina Jolie is fantastic. I have been meaning to write a review on it for a while but unfortunately haven’t gotten around to it yet. Maybe I’ll do that next…

      • There is the theatrical version, the extended cut (slightly rewrites the plot by adding/removing/rearranging scenes), and the director’s cut (adds more flashbacks, is more violent, and has an alternate ending).

  5. I’d vote for a part two to this post, please! I loved this movie. I find it so interesting when female characters replace male ones, and I wish it happened more often. That was the case with my beloved tv series Veronica Mars, as well: the pilot script originally featured a male lead.

  6. No note on the actress as a person, but this article makes me want to see the film now. I think not having Tom Cruise and places in a female makes it more intriguing. Great piece. As far as receiving criticism goes I think it depends on the source for sure. They say your spouse is your best critic bc they will tell you things no one else will.

  7. Angelina made this movie work, I’m afraid Tom Cruise is a bit of a cypher by comparison. You are dead on featuring her in this blog 🙂
    Thanks Jack!

  8. Salt is a great movie. For me it belongs to the category: see again at least twice.
    I am glad that Angelina is the protagonist. She really is Evelyn Salt – throughout the movie. An actress who wows in a movie that wows.
    A possible male alternative – Edwin Salt – could have been Jean Claude van Damme. He is more convincing than Tom Cruise – as he can be show vulnerability and strength at the same time thus convincing the audience more than Tom could ever do.

    By the way: Thank you, Jack, for this excellent description. 🙂

    • I’ve seen Salt at least three times. I’m always amazed by how much I gain from the movie whenever I watch it. I’m sure it would have been a different experience if Cruise had played Jolie’s part. Jolie had a vulnerability to her I really enjoyed watching!

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