Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.
This is the dawning of the age of Kelly Ripa.
The All My Children actress and Live with Regis and Kelly co-host could walk away with two Emmys this year. Ripa was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the ABC soap, and her morning chat show with Regis Philbin received a nod for Best Talk Show.
Ripa's husband, actor Mark Consuelos, was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role on AMC. Ripa and Consuelos met while working on the show, where they play married couple Hayley and Mateo Santos.
In all, AMC leads the way with a total of 21 nominations. Star Susan Lucci, who finally won an Emmy in 1999 after being nominated 21 times, is up for Best Lead Actress. But the actress is facing stiff competition: She's up against co-star Finola Hughes, The Bold and the Beautiful's Susan Flannery and As the World Turns' Martha Byrne and Colleen Zenk Pinter.
With 55 nominations, CBS leads the way in overall network nods. ABC and PBS are close behind with 49 nominations each.
Nominations were announced at a special ceremony hosted by Maury Povich in the Rainbow Room restaurant on Thursday. Highlights of the nomination announcements were broadcast live on CBS' The Early Show.
The 29th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards presentation will be broadcast from Madison Square Garden on May 17 on CBS.
Here is a list of the major nominations:
All My Children (ABC)
As the World Turns (CBS)
One Life to Live (ABC)
The Young and the Restless (CBS)
Lead Actress, Drama Series:
Susan Lucci, All My Children (ABC)
Martha Byrne, As the World Turns (CBS)
Susan Flannery, The Bold and the Beautiful (CBS)
Finola Hughes, All My Children (ABC)
Colleen Zenk Pinter, As the World Turns (CBS)
Lead Actor, Drama Series:
Peter Bergman, The Young & the Restless (CBS)
Jack Scalia, All My Children (ABC)
Vincent Irizarry, All My Children (ABC)
Hunt Block, As the World Turns (CBS)
Robert Newman, Guiding Light (CBS)
Supporting Actress, Drama Series:
Maura West, As the World Turns (CBS)
Kelly Ripa, All My Children (ABC)
Kelley Hensley, As the World Turns (CBS)
Beth Ehlers, Guiding Light (CBS)
Crystal Chappell, Guiding Light (CBS)
Supporting Actor, Drama Series:
Josh Duhamel, All My Children (ABC)
Benjamin Hendrickson, As the World Turns (CBS)
Mark Consuelos, All My Children (ABC)
Cameron Mathison, All My Children (ABC)
Paul Leyden, As the World Turns (CBS)
The Rosie O'Donnell Show (syndicated)
Live with Regis and Kelly (syndicated)
The View (ABC)
The Montel Williams Show (syndicated)
Talk Show Host:
Rosie O'Donnell, The Rosie O'Donnell Show (syndicated)
Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa, Live with Regis and Kelly (syndicated)
Montel Williams, The Montel Williams Show (syndicated)
Barbara Walters, Star Jones, Meredith Vieira, Joy Behar, Lisa Ling, The View (ABC)
The Price Is Right (CBS)
Hollywood Squares (syndicated)
Win Ben Stein's Money (Comedy Central)
Game Show Host:
Alex Trebek, Jeopardy! (syndicated)
Bob Barker, The Price Is Right (CBS)
Ben Stein and Nancy Pimental, Win Ben Stein's Money (Comedy Central)
Pat Sajak, Wheel of Fortune (syndicated)
Reading Rainbow (PBS)
Between the Lions (PBS)
Even Stevens (Disney Channel)
Discovery Kids Ultimate Guide to the Awesome (Discovery)
Pre-School Children's Series:
Blue's Clues (Nickelodeon)
Sesame Street (PBS)
Martha Stewart Living (syndicated)
This Old House (PBS)
Essence of Emeril (Food Network)
The Christopher Lowell Show (Discovery)
Wolfgang Puck (Food Network)