#336. Angelina Jolie

One wonders if Angelina Jolie would have become an actress had her father not been Jon Voight. Perhaps her upbringing allowed her exceptional connections and nurturing of thespian talents that eventually allowed her to break into Hollywood. Of course, much of Jolie’s talent subsists in her sultry appearance and demeanor, which could have likely brought her stardom even with the absence of her famous father. Nevertheless, Angelina Jolie has indeed become a recognizable name in the realm of cinema, no doubt half in part to her relationship with Brad Pitt and the tabloids’ obsession with the couple. While she has portrayed many strong and independent women, it comes as no surprise that many of her humanitarian efforts have been to strengthen and empower women of all ages. This week’s two films highlight some interesting roles filled by Angelina Jolie.

SaltSalt
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

As action films have evolved over the years, there have been more opportunities for strong female protagonists. Some actresses, like Michelle Rodriguez, make these roles into militaristically violent characters. Others, like Scarlett Johannsson, tend to mold these characters into expertly trained assassins. Angelina Jolie manages to strike a delicate balance between the badass and the professional. Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. From her starring roles in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003), to supporting roles in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), these women live by their own rules. Even starring alongside Brad Pitt in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Jolie’s character can hold her own amongst the male-dominated action heroes. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a film like Salt (2010) can use all of Jolie’s talents to bring action to the big screen.

Two years after her rescue from a North Korean prison, Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is brought under suspicion from her employers at the Central Intelligence Agency when a Russian defector enters their office and refuses to be debriefed by anyone but her. During his testimony, it is revealed that Salt is a Russian sleeper agent (a la The Manchurian Candidate (1962)) meant to infiltrate the CIA and execute a mission to destroy the U.S. Not wanting to be captured so easily, Salt escapes and performs her own mission to survive. Memories of her childhood flood her mind as she realizes the truth of her past. Unfortunately, to get Salt to comply, her present is threatened when her husband of two years is kidnapped. Wanting to sever ties with her past, while also saving the world in the process, she turns rogue and goes after the other Russian sleeper agents to stop their nefarious schemes.

The TouristThe Tourist
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 103 minutes / 1.72 hours

Much like other Oscar-winning actresses before her, Angelina Jolie received her first Oscar early on in her career for her supporting role in Girl, Interrupted (1999). This is usually seen as a vote of confidence that these actresses will go on to bigger and better things. At the very least, there are a diverse set of films in Jolie’s filmography, including Maleficent (2014) and Wanted (2008). But, as is often the case, a certain genre seems to be the prevalent force in her repertoire. Even the animated fare of the Kung Fu Panda franchise merely gives Angelina Jolie another opportunity to portray a character skilled at fighting. Of course, films like Wanted and The Tourist (2010) help to paint these characters as more mysterious than your standard action fare. This intrigue is deftly paired with the overt sexuality that Jolie can bring to these roles, which actually might be considered a step backward from previous roles.

Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) finds herself on a train headed to Venice after she received instructions from her lover, Alexander Pearce, to find a random man and pretend that this man is him. This ruse is meant to throw Scotland Yard off their trail, as Alexander has been dodging taxes for years and owes the British government nearly £1 Billion. Of course, not only are government officials after Alexander but the Russian mafia as well. Consequently, Elise chooses Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) to accompany her to Venice where they dance the night away only to find themselves in a high-speed boat chase as their creditors track them down. While it is revealed that Elise is not who she seems, there comes a moment when Frank shows everyone that he’s been hiding something significant about his true identity as well.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 action-filled Angelina Jolie roles

Bacon #: 2 (Kung Fu Panda / Dustin Hoffman -> Sleepers / Kevin Bacon)

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#335. Action Spy!

The irony of the spy genre in Hollywood is that any spy who is really good at espionage is unlikely to be caught. If a spy is not caught, then there is no chance that they’d have to escape via a high-octane action sequence. This would be a boring movie. Anymore, most spies are experts in the cyber domain, which makes any chances of action even less likely. Still, for those “feet on the ground” agents out in the field, knowing how to handle one’s self is a fundamental element to their survival should they be compromised. While most spy movies involve some elements of action to them, some have more action than others. Entire film franchises are based on spies saving the world by fighting their way out of the enemy’s clutches. So, while the action spy is a fabrication of Hollywood, it’s safe to say they’re here to stay. This week’s two films highlight some notable examples of the action spy.

The Bourne IdentityThe Bourne Identity
Year: 2002
Rating: PG-13
Length: 119 minutes / 1.98 hours

Most spies usually have an agency backing them. Whether it’s MI-5 in the James Bond franchise, the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) in the Mission: Impossible franchise, or the eponymous U.N.C.L.E. in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), every spy has an agency giving out orders and providing logistical support to keep them armed and dangerous. But what if a spy’s agency turns on them? What if they have to not only survive with a compromised identity but survive against the agency that trained them? These spies need to think fast and move even faster. When a spy is the best of the best, it’s entertaining to watch them escape from even the most hopeless situation via their ability to fight, run, and survive by any means necessary. The epitome of this type of spy is none other than Jason Bourne.

After a botched mission, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is shocked to learn that Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has survived and now has no memories of who he is. Unfortunately, his training is so deeply ingrained in his mind that he is able to call upon his spy skills to avoid capture. From hand-to-hand combat to professional driving, Bourne uses his talents to escape to the French countryside where he eliminates The Professor (Clive Owen), a sniper sent from the same CIA black ops program Bourne was from to eliminate him. With this new knowledge of Project Treadstone, Bourne heads to the safe house in Paris to confront his handler, Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper). Upon reaching a modicum of closure, Bourne vanishes into the night, attempting to live a peaceful life as he continues to search for his missing memories.

SaltSalt
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

Any spy worth their salt (ha ha) will be able to maintain their cover, even in the most stressing of situations. As we’ve seen in films like Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), this cover can go so deep as to keep an individual’s spouse in the dark as to the true nature of their employment. Of course, as we also saw in that movie, once covers are compromised, action ensues in the most extreme fashion possible. Even if a spy’s spouse or significant other isn’t a spy, like in RED (2010), then there’s likely to be a greater chance that said spy would need to protect themselves and their loved ones should anything go wrong. Obviously, when things go wrong with a spy, they can go wrong in a big way. There’s a reason these action spies are usually off globetrotting since the fate of the world is often in their capable hands.

Shortly after being rescued from North Korea, Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) admits to her boyfriend that she is actually a CIA agent. Regardless of this, the two of them get married shortly afterward and live happily until two years later when a Russian agent arrives at the CIA and is interrogated by Salt. He tells her about a group of Russian sleeper agents and that she is one of them. Since his testimony is proven correct by a lie detector, Salt needs to immediately escape the CIA compound and head into hiding. Upon learning her husband is kidnapped, she decides to carry out the mission of her sleeper-agent self, killing the Russian President in the process. With her loyalty to the Russians now confirmed, she is given her next assignment: kill the U.S. President. When one of her CIA colleagues reveals himself to be another of the sleeper agents, Salt reveals her actions are a ruse and that she is still loyal to the U.S.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 exciting espionage agents