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.
The comedy, about a group of high school students in a choir club, will fight for the Outstanding TV Comedy prize against Curb Your Enthusiasm, Modern Family, Nurse Jackie, The Office and 30 Rock, which has taken home the title for the last three years.
Glee's leading stars Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele have been nominated in the male and female categories for the outstanding comedy actor awards, while their co-star Chris Colfer has received a best supporting actor nomination.
Morrison faces competition from Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Jim Parson (The Big Bang Theory), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Steve Carell (The Office) and last year's winner Alec Baldwin (30 Rock).
Meanwhile Michele will face off with Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Tina Fey (30 Rock) and Toni Collette (The United States of Tara), who took home the statue last year (09).
Producers of cable network HBO's gritty World War II drama The Pacific will also hope for a triumphant night after receiving 24 nominations, including Outstanding Miniseries.
The 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be handed out on 29 August (10) at a ceremony in Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre and will be presented by comedian Jimmy Fallon.
The main list of nominees is as follows:
Outstanding Drama Series: Breaking Bad, Dexter, The Good Wife, Lost, Mad Men, True Blood.
Outstanding Comedy Series: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Glee, Modern Family, Nurse Jackie, The Office, 30 Rock.
Outstanding Lead Actor, Drama: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Hugh Laurie (House), Matthew Fox (Lost), Jon Hamm (Mad Men).
Outstanding Lead Actress, Drama: Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), Glenn Close (Damages), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), January Jones (Mad Men).
Outstanding Lead Actor, Comedy: Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Matthew Morrison (Glee), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Steve Carell (The Office), Alec Baldwin (30 Rock).
Outstanding Lead Actress, Comedy: Lea Michele (Glee), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Toni Collette (The United States of Tara).
Supporting Actor In A Drama Series: John Slattery (Mad Men), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Martin Short (Damages), Terry O'Quinn (Lost), Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age), Michael Emerson (Lost).
Supporting Actress In A Drama Series: Rose Byrne (Damages), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Sharon Gless (Burn Notice), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife).
Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series: Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Chris Colfer (Glee), Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother).
Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series: Jane Lynch (Glee), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men).
Guest Actor In A Drama Series: Robert Morse (Mad Men), Alan Cumming (The Good Wife), John Lithgow (Dexter), Ted Danson (Damages), Gregory Itzin (24), Dylan Baker (The Good Wife), Beau Bridges (The Closer)
Guest Actress In A Drama Series: Mary Kay Place (Big Love), Lily Tomlin (Damages), Sissy Spacek (Big Love), Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost), Ann-Margret (Law & Order: SVU), Shirley Jones (The Cleaner).
Guest Actor In A Comedy Series: Mike O'Malley (Glee), Fred Willard (Modern Family), Eli Wallach (Nurse Jackie), Jon Hamm (30 Rock), Neil Patrick Harris (Glee), Will Arnett (30 Rock).
Guest Actress In A Comedy Series: Kristin Chenoweth (Glee), Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live), Jane Lynch (Two And A Half Men), Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives), Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory), Betty White (Saturday Night Live), Elaine Stritch (30 Rock).
Reality Series: Antiques Roadshow, MythBusters, Undercover Boss, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Dirty Jobs, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.