Imagine someone close to you accuses you of betrayal. What would your reaction be? Disbelief? Shock? Anger? Or would you dismiss it as another play from someone willing to do anything to get to you? The options are endless. How about the source? Where did the accuser get their information? How reliable is it? Does the source have a history of exaggerating facts with wild suggestions and ideas? Has the source proven unreliable in the past? The motive can be anything. What if the conspiracy is so farfetched that it would be difficult for anyone not to believe the accuser? Salt is this week’s highlight for Women Who Wow Wednesday.
Initially securing Tom Cruise as Edwin Salt, an undercover operative, the film’s writers had to rework the script after Cruise had abandoned the project and Angelina Jolie stepped in to fill his shoes. The first order of business was the name change from Edwin Salt to Evelyn Salt.
Not wanting to give away any plot points or even discuss anything about Evelyn Salt’s covert predicament since it would suggest some form of spoiler, I’m going to concentrate only on one particular event in the film—the interrogation scene and everything leading up to it.
In a dank prison in North Korea, Evelyn Salt undergoes extensive questioning. Let’s not kid ourselves—she’s tortured. The North Koreas accuse her of being an American spy. They have evidence she’s working for the CIA. She denies it. They don’t believe her. They drag her from her cell wearing just her bra and panties. They restrain her and ask again if she’s working for the CIA. She again denies it. They hold open her mouth, stick a tube down her throat and pour into it a nasty liquid. It’s not certain if it’s oil or gasoline.
She chokes, denies ever working for anyone, and begs for mercy. Her spine-chilling screams echo throughout the prison. But she doesn’t give them anything. Again, they torture her in an attempt to compel her to talk. And again, she gives them nothing.
It isn’t until her boyfriend kicks up a fuss with the American Embassy, sending letters to Congress, and igniting a political firestorm that her tormentors release her into the hands of the CIA. Battered and bruised, she falls under the comforting arm of her boss and wonders aloud why they released her—she should be dead. Her boyfriend loves her so, and because of that love and political pull, she again saw the light of day.
Two years later a Russian defector surrenders to the CIA and Salt is brought in to interrogate him. Naturally, the CIA tactics contrast those of the North Koreans in that Salt calmly sits on one side of a table in a cold, yet highly watched room, while the defector sits on the other.
He has something to tell her. Something very important. Something that will change her life forever. But how credible is he? Can she trust him? Where did he get his information? Who is his source?
And this is why I love the character Evelyn Salt. In her time of uncertainty, her vulnerabilities are her greatest strengths. Her intuition is her best defense. She withstood torture, degradation, and even cheated death, but never gave up in her time of almost-permanent defeat. As shocking as her agony was, her victory came with her silence protecting the government with whom they had accused her of conspiring.
Author’s note—There, I hope I didn’t reveal too much. Those were the first ten to fifteen minutes of the film. Yeah, no kidding. Trust me when I say, Salt is one of the most interesting characters I’ve had the opportunity to research. I may write a Part II to this post one day. We’ll see, though.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.
If you’ve seen Salt, have you ever felt like you needed to watch the movie again? What did you like about Angelina’s portrayal of the protagonist?