Radar Replay: ‘Salt’ aligns with the James Bond series in this mind-bending story that incorporates a female lead

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

 Several films make being a government spy or a witty CIA agent seem like an exciting job that includes performing cool stunts, keeping top secrets and constantly living on the brink of death. The decade-old film “Salt” not only effectively explores these aspects to provide a firsthand account of what it is like being a top secret agent, but also creates a unique character dynamic. “Salt” follows the CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie), one of the organization’s most respected and highly trained officers. However, she becomes a fugitive on the CIA’s Most Wanted List after she is accused of being a double agent; she is accused of being a Russian spy with aims of assassinating the Russian president in an elaborate ploy to spur war. In a myriad of action-packed sequences and ambiguity encircling who Salt really is, the film utilizes a feminist approach and offers a thoughtful experience. 

The ongoing mystery in the midst of nonstop, action-packed scenes really make “Salt” a worthwhile watch. There are several scenes in the film that places Salt on the edge of being a heroine or a villain. Jolie plays her role so convincingly that the audience doesn’t know what to believe. As the hunt for Salt continues, the film brings up key points about the other characters, and the audience begins to doubt themselves about more than just the integrity of our protagonist. The film makes you feel as if the mind is playing tricks on itself, as there are moments when we want to believe the characters, but other truths are uncovered that make the characters all the more complex. For example, Salt’s boss, Ted Winters (Liev Schreiber), makes himself appear as her companion rather than her superior, but his character is put into question. These themes make a mark in the real world as it explores the concept of trust and potential great betrayal. Other action films, such as the recent “Old Guard,” can be too predictable and shorten excitement with just a few action scenes. On the contrary, “Salt” keeps the audience engaged with every passing moment. 

Originally intended for Tom Cruise, the film insteads stars Angelina Jolie in a quite feminist manner that avoids gender stereotypes. Most action films, such as “Inception,” “Extraction” and the “Mission Impossible” franchise center around male protagonists, but “Salt” shows how a blockbuster action flick can have a female lead. 

The film takes on a feminist approach that is subtly seen throughout the film, in the way of Salt’s trajectory from of oblivious orphan to fierce woman as she battles the CIA in an attempt to protect the life she’s built for herself. The film portrays Salt as a courageous and powerful woman who is able to pick herself up from any injustice she encounters. In one scene, she is also seen helping a child with homework, thus showcasing her as a strong and gentle woman, traits that wouldn’t be elaborated if the lead were male. The film does an excellent job of portraying Salt as an empowered woman who can handle anything that comes her way without boxing her into stereotypes. Salt is not marked as a “damsel in distress,” she is seen as a resilient woman able to steer her own ship. 

What makes the film interesting is how ambiguous Salt’s real character is because the audience doesn’t know her true intentions. At the surface, Salt is just an agent on the run, but she also experiences a loss of identity and a moral struggle. On one hand, she is dedicated to the CIA and makes sacrifices, but on the other, she doesn’t hesitate to go on a killing spree. Other action films may deem the protagonist as either good or bad, but “Salt” provides a more complicated character study. By showing Salt’s kind nature and her struggle between right and wrong, the film leaves the question: Who exactly is Salt?  

With several minutes of exciting, action-filled scenes, the film will leave you mind blown and wondering. Audiences can expect to be conflicted whether to root for or vilify the protagonist as scenes unfold subtle truths about her nature. “Salt” also does a remarkable job at paving the way for more action films incorporating female leads with an excellent portrayal of Evelyn Salt’s tough demeanor as an agent. The film is not just a story about a CIA agent, but also one with a mysterious past and identity. It may seem like a complicated story, but there is never a dull moment in the film and is a must-watch for anyone who loves James Bond. 

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