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.
Looks like life may be imitating art for the star of The Wedding Planner.
The New York Post and Britain's The Sun reported on Sunday that actress-singer Jennifer Lopez's may be engaged to her dancer boyfriend, Cris Judd.
But it gets better. Lopez is also rumored to be three months pregnant with Judd's baby, according to several sources. Reports have done everything from describing the proposal to detailing the ring, but no one, and we mean no one, has confirmed these rumors with Lopez's "people."
But Lopez's publicist, Alan Nierob, told us today that he could not comment on the star's private life. However, he could confirm that Lopez was not filming "any sequel to Anaconda." (Some reports had said she dropped out of an Anaconda 2 project because of the pregnancy).
"She has nothing to do with it at all," Nierob said. He did confirm that Lopez is currently filming Columbia Pictures' Enough, directed by Michael Apted, and said that she has several other projects coming up.
This isn't the first time J.Lo pregnancy/marriage rumors have swirled. In January, an E! Online user asked columnist Ted Casablanca about a possible Lopez/Combs wedding, and mentioned the pregnancy possibility as well.
Obviously, that didn't happen.
Puffy wraps up a supermodel
If you're feeling bad for Puffy, don't.
The music-mogul rapper has reportedly been dating supermodel Naomi Campbell. The pair met at the Cannes Film Festival, and Campbell recently visited Combs in New York.
The New York Post has spied the cozy couple in many Manhattan night spots, but at the first sign of a photographer, they apparently immediately separated. While both deny any romance, they admit to a friendship and appear to be very friendly.
Combs has made headlines with his recent trial for gun possession, a name change from "Puff Daddy" to "P. Diddy" and finally back to Sean Combs. An ex, Kim Porter, is suing for child support. Campbell has dated a variety of European playboys, but has spent most of the past month with Combs.
Heather and Heath split up--oh yeah, and Tara and Carson are, too
Their names may make them seem like a match made in Heaven, but May to September lovebirds Heath Ledger and Heather Graham have called it quits.
The Washington Post reported today that Graham's publicist confirmed last week's big rumor about the split up between the knight and his fair go-go dancing gal.
Oh yeah, if anyone cares, Tara Reid and Carson Daly have done the splitsville thing, too. At least, their once-impending nuptials have been, well, postponed.
Hollywood.com Staffer Leigh Johnson contributed to this story.