It's full of preposterous plot twists and showy, motion sickness-inducing chase scenes — it's also darned entertaining
Tell the truth: didn’t you look at your watch at least once while watching “Inception,” which clocked in at nearly 2 and a half hours?
Earlier this summer, “Robin Hood” came in at a draggy 140 minutes. And even “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” ran a few minutes over the magical two-hour limit, just so Taylor Lautner could take off his shirt and parade about bare-chested yet one more time.
If only all movies were as streamlined as “Salt.” A zippy 93 minutes.
Of course, one doesn’t judge a movie merely by its running time — though, when I was a critic at People magazine and had to award stars, I used to joke to studio publicists that a film automatically earned an extra star if it was 90 minutes or less and lost one if it lollygagged past the two-and-a-half hours mark).
There are exceptions. The execrable “MacGruber” was just under 90 minutes, but each one of those dragged on like a lifetime.
Conversely, I would have been happy to sit at John Sayles’ 1992 drama, “Passion Fish" for another hour or two just to see what else the characters might get up to. Ditto every film by Nicole Holofcener and, most recently, the current domestic comedy, “The Kids Are All Right.”
“Salt,” of course, is a more conventional gunpoint thriller, full of preposterous plot twists and showy, motion sickness-inducing chase scenes. It’s darned entertaining — though, let’s be honest, this is not a movie anyone's going to be mentioning come Oscar time.
Angelina Jolie, she of the pouty lips and lithe limbs, plays Evelyn Salt (thus answering the ubiquitous billboard question: “Who Is Salt?”), a CIA agent suspected of being a double agent for the Russians.
She spends most of “Salt” on the run. She dashes about Washington, D.C., and New York City on foot, clings to the roof of a speeding truck, hops onto a motorcycle, attempts to steer a hijacked cop car while handcuffed, and so forth.
Director Philip Noyce (“Rabbit-Proof Fence”) shoots much of this in jarring close-up and employs rapid cuts, delivering a film that feels very “Bourne” again without being slavishly derivative.
Jolie, in full action hero mode, looks grimly serious and determined throughout. You don’t doubt for a second that she’s the equal of the dozens of highly trained male opponents she dispatches with ease.
Do you believe that any of this is real or possible? Absolutely not. “Salt” may be the movie’s title, but this is pure, unseasoned popcorn fare.
And did I mention that it’s only 93 minutes?
With all the time you save, you can follow the recommendation of retired New York Times columnist Russell Baker, who once wrote that he stored the hours and minutes he saved down in his basement, where he occasionally went to gaze upon them fondly.