SALT: Excellent action movies are able to establish a fast pace early and keep their momentum right up to the climax. Borrowing heavily from cold war paranoia films like THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962), this well-directed flick from Phillip Noyce (PATRIOT GAMES) centers around a highly skilled CIA agent (Angelina Jolie) who has to flee from her employers when she’s accused by a defector (Daniel Olbrychski) of being a Russian sleeper spy. What follows is a chase movie highlighted by a series of non-CGI generated stunts orchestrated by Simon Crane, including a leap from a bridge onto the top of a moving 18-wheeler preceding yet another jump onto a similarly mobile rig. The tension generated in these numerous narrow escape sequences are enhanced by the extremely tight editing of Stuart Baird and John Gilroy as well as the kinetic-sounding musical score from James Newton Howard. Even though the plot in Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay seems slightly outdated and rather preposterous, it rises above such deficiencies by instilling a willingness at the outset for the audience to suspend disbelief. When it comes to casting for the title role, Angelina (You know a female is a “diva” when you only have to say her first name for everybody to know whom you’re talking about.) is the only actress who I think could play the part of her character’s conflicted, lean, mean, full-lipped killing machine with any believability. After awhile, even the issue of whether she is or isn’t a Russian mole takes a back seat to the cliffhanger-like suspense of wondering how she’ll extricate herself from the latest crisis. It may or may not be realistic but it certainly is fun. CRITIC’S GRADE: B

MOVIES TO WATCH FOR IN AUGUST: THE OTHER GUYS (August 6), STEP UP 3D (August 6), EAT PRAY LOVE (August 13), THE EXPENDABLES (August 13), SCOTT PILGRIM vs. THE WORLD (August 13), THE LOTTERY TICKET (August 20), NANNY McPHEE 2 (August 20), THE SWITCH (August 20), GOING THE DISTANCE (August 27), PIRANHA 3D (August 27)