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Film / Salt

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Salt is an American action thriller film directed by Phillip Noyce, written by Kurt Wimmer and Brian Helgeland, and starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor and August Diehl.

Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a member of the CIA assigned to the Russian desk who is accused of being a KGB sleeper agent, and goes on the run to try to clear her name.

The film opened in North America on July 23, 2010.

This film provides examples of:

  • The Ace: How Salt is portrayed based on her CIA profile. She earned a black belt in Taekwondo at 16, she is a nationally ranked chess player, holds a graduate degree in Russian History/Literature and has trained in many various military/covert disciplines, including military freefall training, unarmed combat, counter surveillance, explosives training, close quarters combat, etc.
  • Anti-Hero: Salt, who goes deep into it after Mike's death. She's moral enough to spare everyone she can, even when it would have been far easier to kill them.
  • Assassination Attempt: The Mole succeeds in moving the President and his retinue into the subterranean bunker below the White House. There, he is able to wrest away a pistol from a treasury agent, and massacres everyone including (in the director's cut) the President. Using the corpse's thumbprint, The Mole is able to initiate the nuclear launch protocol. It's up to Double Reverse Quadruple Agent Evelyn Salt to regain control of the command bunker and issue a stand-down order.
  • Balcony Escape: Salt escapes persecution by climbing from the window of her apartment to a neighbor's.
  • Becoming the Mask: Salt was originally only using her husband as a cover to gain entry to North Korean territory for the CIA, but his rescue of her when she was captured lead to genuine love, which led her to betray her real superiors, the Russians who later had him killed.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted in the torture scene, where Salt ends up with a nasty black eye.
  • Bifauxnen: Salt spends the last twenty minutes of the movie sporting a short haircut and men's clothes, in disguise as a male soldier.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: No surgery is involved, but Winter does use the unconscious (dead, in the director's cut) President's fingerprints to confirm the launch codes.
  • Car Cushion: Salt falls from great heights and has her fall broken by cars and vans, and never receives any lasting damage.
  • Chekhov's Gun: We see Salt collecting spider venom early in the movie, and at the very end it's revealed that she uses it to fake the Russian president's death.
  • Combat Stilettos: Defied. One of the first things Salt does when she goes on the run is take off her heels. She wears flat boots for the rest of the movie.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Salt tears through many Secret Service agents.
  • Deep Cover Agent: During the Cold War, the plan was to send dozens of sleeper agents into American society, and for all of them to attack different highly placed American targets on a given day. Salt is one as well.
  • Defcon 5: Averted: In the White House's bunker, one of the President's Cabinet correctly changes the Defcon level from '4' to '2'.
  • Defiant to the End: The US president, who outright tells Ted to go fuck himself. At gunpoint. With all his personnel being mowed down in front of him mere seconds ago.
  • Description Cut: Peabody, Winter and other agents are discussing how hard it would be for Salt to break into St. Bart's chapel, then we see her crawling along the sewers.
  • Dirty Communists: KGB spies serve as the bad guys.
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Salt herself. She started as a KGB, later SVR, Sleeper Agent inserted into the United States as a child and joined the CIA, then gets outed by her own SVR handler as part of The Plan and goes on the lam. Problem was, she'd gone native after her German husband pulled out all the stops to get her freed after she was captured in North Korea on a CIA assignment, and after they kidnap and later murder him, she fakes carrying out her part of the sleeper agents' plan, kills her handler, then infiltrates the infiltrators to completely wreck their attempt to start World War III.
  • Dye or Die: While on the run, Salt dyes her normally blonde hair black (and at a certain point, cuts it in order to disguise herself as a man).
  • Fan Disservice: In the opening scene, Salt, looking dangerously skinny from starvation, being tortured in her underwear.
  • Faking the Dead: The Russian president.
  • Foreshadowing: The list of Salt's special abilities that Peabody receives on his phone, which includes skydiving, hand-to-hand combat and many other skills Salt proves that she possesses through the film.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Salt convinces Ted to let her in and turn off the launching sequence... only for him to watch the news about miraculous recovery of the Russian president.
  • Forced to Watch: Salt is forced to watch her husband get drowned while chained onto the floor of a boat. Justified as a Secret Test of Character for Salt, to make sure she was still loyal to Russia. She pretends it doesn't affect her to throw them off their guard, then stabs her handler to death with a broken vodka bottle and kills everyone in the building.
  • Fragile Speedster: For the bulk of the film, Salt's rather serious mass/strength disadvantages are ignored in her fight scenes....until she goes up against Winters.
  • Fugitive Arc: Salt is named as a mole by a captured Cold War derelict, sending the CIA after her. She escapes house arrest, then reconnects with her Soviet spy comrades. However, when Salt learns that her superiors are planning a rogue operation that will trigger a nuclear war, she works feverishly to undo their plans. This makes Evelyn Salt kill-on-sight for American and Soviet forces.
  • Gambit Roulette: The bad guys revealing the first part of their plan to the good guys, and still everything working out perfectly by relying on Salt's skill alone, was clearly a case of this.
  • Gender Flip: The part of Salt was originally written for a man, "Edwin Salt", and Tom Cruise was considered, but thought the character was too similar to Ethan Hunt.
  • Gratuitous Russian: To the point that one piece of the score has Ominous Russian Chanting.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: How Salt kills Orlov. Both types of the trope are used - she breaks a bottle of vodka over his head, stunning him, then stabs him in the throat repeatedly with the broken end.
  • Handy Cuffs: An odd example, as Salt had previously just beaten the crap out of several cops and Secret Service agents with her bare hands. Not that it matters. When they cuff her hands behind her back at the end, she still manages to kill Winters.
  • Heel–Face Turn: It's unclear when, but somewhere down the line, Salt stopped being a Russian agent, though it most probably happened when she fell in love with Mike.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Secretary of Defense takes a bullet for the President when Ted starts shooting in the PEOC.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: At the end, Salt points out to Peabody that she had plenty of opportunities to kill far more people than she actually did - including him - and didn't take them, as a sign of good faith. He lets her escape to track down her fellow sleepers afterwards.
  • Improvised Weapon: See MacGyvering below.
  • Inspector Javert: Peabody, in the beginning of the movie. For all he knows, there's a Russian spy loose, and it's his job to catch her.
  • Karma Houdini: Subverted - just as it looks as though Ted is about to get away with everything, Salt strangles him to death.
  • Kick the Dog: After Ted mows down everyone in the bunker and starts talking with the president, one woman pops her head out from behind a chair to have a look around and is promptly shot.
  • Latex Perfection: Toned down to somewhat realistic level when Salt is disguised as a guy. A guy that still has her facial structure and overall shape of face.
  • Lzherusskie: As usual, Russian characters are played, with the exception of extras, by non-Russian actors. (though at one point it was enforced: Andrei Konchalovsky told Noyce to pick a certain actor for Orlov because "such an evil Russian character could only be played by a Polish actor")
  • MacGyvering: Salt improvises a cannon of sorts from several cleaning chemicals, the hollow plastic leg of a table and a fire extinguisher.
  • Make the Bear Angry Again: The bad guys are deep-cover Soviet agents trying to destroy the United States, and they'll do anything to make that come to pass, including eliminating the president of Russia. In other words, Russians are trying to make their own bear angry again.
  • Meaningful Name: Ted Winter, whose name subtly recalls Russia.
  • The Mole: A great many characters. Secret Service agent Ted Winters is the last Russian Deep Cover Agent Salt goes up against in the movie.
  • Mole in Charge: The Director's Cut heavily implies that the new US President is one of the sleeper agents.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: A lot of it and all justified, since Salt is trying to prove her innocence and it would be hard to do so after murdering so many people that tried to stop her. Until Mike is drowned, Salt uses only non-lethal attacks, knocking her enemies out or beating them unconscious. This even includes using fire-arms, which are used as last resort and strictly to take people out of combat, not to kill them. When she starts killing, her targets are strictly limited to the sleeper agents.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Salt immediately goes on the run after being accused of being a Russian sleeper agent with orders to assassinate the president of Russia, leaving American law enforcement no choice but to chase her.
  • Not Quite Dead: When everybody thinks that the Russian president has been shot, it turns out that it was actually spider venom that causes paralysis.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Both the Russian and American presidents are President Targets.
  • Pet the Dog: Quite literally—Salt has an adorable little dog in the beginning of the movie, just so she can show the audience her softer side. Her relationship with Mike serves the same purpose, in addition to providing her excuse for fleeing.
  • Plot Armor: If pulling off nigh-impossible stunts for most of the movie (including falling from a bridge inside a car, with no seatbelt and back to the panel) and leaving without so much as a scuffed knee doesn't qualify, walking away unscathed after being shot by a rifle (wearing only a light vest) surely does.
  • Protagonist Title: The protagonist's surname to be specific.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Winters is willing to step and speak on Salt's behalf after an unconfirmed report brands her a double agent. Then subverted when it turns out that he is also a double agent, and was trying to keep her on the loose to both further his own mission and make her the perfect scapegoat for his own crimes.
  • Re-Cut: Apart from the theatrical version, there's a Director's Cut and an Extended Cut, each with its own ending (the former has a voice-over implying Salt is dead, and the new president is a covert Russian agent, and the latter Salt escaping from the FBI, and leaving for Russia, where she kills Orlov - the scene with his death in the barge was cut - and destroys the facility where new agents are being created)
  • Renegade Russian: Orlov represents a group of Communist hardliners that somehow outlived the Cold War and are opposed to the Russian government.
  • Rule of Cool: Salt pulls off all sorts of crazy stunts.
  • Sequel Hook: The FBI chief frees Salt, on the promise she'll hunt the rest of the KAs.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The first half of the movie. After desperately searching for her husband, she finds him...only to be forced to stand there and watch him die as a test of loyalty. Granted, it's what opens up the second half of the plot, and in a way it nicely averts A Million Is a Statistic and Protagonist-Centered Morality (since it could be interpreted that her actions - or inactions - mean she believes that preventing Orlov's plans to start a world war is more important than saving Mike. Even so, it did seem to undermine the first half of the movie.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Ted reveals his true colors by shooting down most of the President's Cabinet in the bunker, the National Security Adviser is gunned down after stating his position in a futile attempt to be spared ala Air Force One, in which Russian operatives also killed the National Security Adviser during an attempted coup on the titular plane.
    • There are several James Bond shoutouts, including the whole North Korean sequence from Die Another Day and Orlov's switchblade shoe from From Russia with Love. Both are entirely factual, but likely to have been shout outs.
    • The way Salt dyes her hair and employs various disguises is reminiscent of the Mission: Impossible films and Alias.
    • Salt refers to herself as a "patsy" at one point—possibly a reference to Lee Harvey Oswald, mentioned in the beginning of the film, who referred to himself as such in relation to JFK's assassination.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Salt was the only known female CIA agent and Russian spy.
  • Static Stun Gun: Salt uses a taser to knock out and then "puppeteer" a police car driver.
  • Tagline: "Who is Salt?"
  • The Reveal: Ted Winters is actually another sleeper agent.
  • Tomato Surprise: All the trailers imply that Salt is being framed, and throughout the first half of the movie she certainly acts like it. Then it turns out she is a Deep Cover Agent and has been concealing it from her coworkers, her husband and the audience the whole time.
  • Tyke Bomb: Essentially what a Russian sleeper agent is. Born in Russia to Mr and Mrs Chenkhov, our heroine was taken from her parents as a baby and brought up/trained by the KGB. At around nine or ten she was brought into the US and was given the identity of Evelyn Salt, an orphaned American child, sole survivor of the car crash that killed her parents, while the death of the real Evelyn Salt (who did in fact die in the car crash) went unreported.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: The "Nuclear Launch Sequence" progress bar.
  • Waif-Fu: Salt has no problem chucking men twice her size around for someone her size.
  • Wall Jump: Salt does this at least twice, jumping off the wall to kick an assailant.
  • Who Shot JFK?: "In 1959, Lee Harvey Oswald visited Russia. The guy who returned was an agent named Alek."
  • Would Not Shoot a Good Guy: If you notice carefully, Salt never kills any of the FBI agents, only knocking them out with darts, non-lethal venom and painful but not deadly martial arts moves. She only kills Orlov, Winters and the other Russian sleeper agents.