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Allison Silver

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SALT: The Greening of Action Movies

Posted: 07/25/10 03:05 PM ET

It is clear to anyone watching Salt that there has been a sea change in action movies.

Angelina Jolie, as the indomitable CIA agent Evelyn Salt, spends a lot of screentime running. The most exciting chase sequences in Salt are on foot.

Salt's first reaction, after a Russian spymaster fingers her as a double agent, is to sprint out of CIA headquarters. She proceeds to run across what looks like most of Washington. Sure, she runs into the Metro, but only to elude pursuers. She runs right back out. During the movie's breakneck final action beat, she runs even more.

This is not so unusual these days. Tom Cruise, who Salt was originally intended for, has been doing a lot of running without taking this role. From his first Mission Impossible, this seminal action star has been covering a lot of ground on foot.

Even Daniel Craig, the current James Bond, seems to have forsaken the franchise's beloved gadgets. This new iteration of the Bond franchise opened with a stunning action sequence, with Craig racing furiously to catch an enemy agent -- on foot.

Now, Sean Connery was probably a good runner. (On Roger Moore, the jury is still out.) But audiences never knew either way. Bond chased his target from behind the wheel of a sleek speedboat or an elegant Aston Martin. The hairpin turns were jaw-dropping.

Steve McQueen was also a paradigm action star, cool and brooding. His many fans knew he was in good shape. But for his legendary chase in Bullitt, McQueen was in the coolest of cars -- a Ford Mustang.

Even back in the silent era, the best chases involved cars. Harold Lloyd, who orchestrated the cleverest of chases, knew to use automobiles, motorcycles and streetcars in addition to foot-power. And he was one of cinema's most remarkable athletes.

Real movie action always meant gasoline-fueled transpiration. And, we now know, dangerous hydrocarbons.

So the new high-tech for movie chases does not involve fast cars, or glistening streamlined jets or even chic mini-subs. The new new thing is on foot.

Something has been lost. But something, surely, has also been gained.

Even so, I am hoping the Tesla will change all this.