07/21/2010 08:51 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Movie Review: Salt

From start to finish, Salt is the very definition of a solid summer popcorn movie: fast, exciting, suspenseful, adrenalized -- and, most important, smart.

Also: highly implausible. When an editor of mine asked what I meant by that, I quickly ticked off a list of events in the movie that could not happen in reality (among them: At one point, Angelina Jolie leaps off a moving subway train in a tunnel, threads the needle between steel pillars and emerges unscathed). In conclusion, I said, "It's a Hollywood action film - of course, it's implausible."

But that's what movies are for: to take us out of our own lives and plunge us into a world we could never actually inhabit, to enjoy thrills while suspending disbelief. It's not a question of plausible or implausible; it's whether the story sweeps you up in such a way that you either don't think about or don't care that it stretches reality. It feels real enough to hold you rapt and not make you say, "No freakin' way."

So it is with Salt, in which Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a covert CIA operative who, ostensibly, works for a petroleum company in Washington, D.C. One day, on the way out of the office, she's called back to question a walk-in: a Soviet defector who claims to have information about a mole at the CIA.

One hitch: The double-agent he names is Evelyn Salt. Even as the Russian is escorted out, Salt is being sequestered for questioning. But she's also quietly freaking out because she's worried that this is a plot in which the Russians are going to go after her husband. So, given an opportunity, she slips out of the building to go find him -- which makes her an instant suspect and fugitive.

Her best friend at the agency, Ted (Liev Schreiber), refuses to believe that she's a double-agent, but he can barely restrain Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the agent leading the charge to recapture Salt. But Salt is like a female Jason Bourne (except she knows what she's capable of) -- and no one's going to take her without a fight and a chase.

Salt, the defector claimed, is a sleeper agent who has been activated to murder the Russian president, who is scheduled to appear in New York to deliver the eulogy for the recently deceased former U.S. vice president. So Salt heads to New York, ostensibly to foil that plot and clear her own name.