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Angelina Jolie stars in 'Salt' as a CIA superspy

Angelina Jolie plays a CIA superspy, in the new movie ‘Salt,' a high-octane action thriller.

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Noyce made his Hollywood name with the Tom Clancy adaptations “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger,” but in recent years he showed his real worth as an artist with such films as “Rabbit-Proof Fence” and the Graham Greene adaptation “The Quiet American,” featuring one of Michael Caine’s two or three best performances.

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In “Salt,” he does a commendable job as a director-for-hire, especially in the action scenes, although the flashback sequences are stiff and there’s an undue amount of exposition involving CIA and Russian operatives standing around explaining the plot to us. Even though good actors such as Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor are doing the explaining (or disinforming?), they’re essentially just taking up space. What we really want to see is Evelyn, that new-style Mata Hari, do her drop kicks.

(Speaking of casting, why is Andre Braugher, a great actor, given a glorified walk-on as the US secretary of Defense? He’s ranked high in the billing, so much must have been left on the cutting-room floor.)

Although Middle East terrorism is cited at one point, “Salt” could easily have been conceived in the 1960s. There’s something oddly comforting about this – just as, in a way, the recent discovery of Russian spies living double lives in the US harked back to a (seemingly) simpler time. I’m not trying to champion Commie nostalgia here, but the filmmakers might be.

At a time when the real world of modern global terrorism inserts itself into even the most comic book-style escapades – “The A Team” anyone? – it’s no wonder that political action filmmakers are looking for ways to heat up the screen without giving audiences real-world nightmares. Casting about for new villains, Hollywood has settled on a safe solution: Bring back the old villains.

The only thing missing from “Salt” is Lotte Lenya’s Rosa Klebb with her steel blade-tipped shoes from “From Russia With Love.” Come to think of it, the Russian defector here does indeed kill with steel-blade shoes. Nice touch. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.)

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