Genre: Spy Thriller
Synopsis: A CIA agent discovers there’s a Russian spy deep inside the organization.
About: This is that infamous project that Tom Cruise was attached to but then got booted off of. Since it’s disaster central for any profile-dropping A-Lister to get booted off a project, Tom’s robots did spin control and all of a sudden Tom hadn’t been let go from the project, he had dropped out of the project. To make matters even more bizarre, he was replaced by Angelina Jolie. Yes, cause that makes sense. There’s an old screenplay adage that goes: If you’re all out of ideas, change the gender of your protagonist. A new world of possibilities will open up. Let’s see what opens up when Angelina Jolie becomes Edwin A Salt.
Writer: Kurt Wimmer

I’m going to tell you to do something I’ve never told you to do before on Scriptshadow. Don’t read this review. Instead, scroll to the bottom, download the script, read it, then come back. Because as Randy Jackson would say, this script was off the hook. I don’t want the review to spoil anything for you. So go read it, come back, and we’ll talk.

Go.

Did you read it?

Okay good. We’re ready to have a discussion.

Wasn’t that awesome??? I love Salt. Before? I was just a bland tasteless meal. Then Salt came along and gave me flavor. Even though I’m not normally into spies and double crossing and undercover agents, I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in this badass thriller. I’m an 80s child so the second you start saying things like Cold War and Soviet Union, I’m so right there. Cause I lived it man. I LIVED IT. You think it was easy waking up every day knowing you could get bombed at any second by the Ruskies? Yeah well that was my life.

Salt starts out introducing us to CIA officer Edwin A. Salt and his CIA best friend, Winter. Salt is planning a birthday party for his daughter and he wants it to be the best birthday party ever. Unfortunately, the two have to make a quick detour over to headquarters, and that’s when shit starts going bad. Salt’s CIA position isn’t exactly the top of the food chain. He’s been assigned to Russia, and these days the only Cold War going on is in Putin’s pants if you know what I’m talking about (no, I don’t know either). So normally Salt wouldn’t have much to do. However, a strange Russian man approaches the building and insists Salt hear his story. Salt’s pissed because he has his daughter’s birthday party but work is work and he brings the man in.

The Russian tells him of a secret Russian weapon created back during the Cold War. This weapon was a man – the creme de la creme of soviet espionage. Did you ever see Conan The Barbarian? When Conan has to turn that wheel for like 20 years of his life? Well this guy would’ve walked right over him and gone for another 20. They made this man the smartest, toughest, deadliest, coolest, most perfect spy in the world. His name was “Chekov”, and at age 17, they sent him to the United States to infiltrate the U.S. Government. After 20 years, he has embedded himself so deep inside the CIA, that he has access to every single document in the building. But he’s only looking for one. A document called KA-88. KA-88 is a trigger scenario the U.S. developed in anticipation of its enemies that shows the one weakness in our government/economy that would cause our country to crumble within weeks. Doomsday for America. Chekov has finally gotten clearence to obtain that document. Oh, and one more thing, the Russian says. “You are Chekov.”

Holy shit! DO I HAVE YOUR FUCKING ATTENTION?? I sure have my own. Winter is shocked. His best friend is now his worst enemy. Or is he? Salt swears he knows nothing about this. Yet Salt is in the CIA – he’s one of the best trained liars in the world. So is he lying to cover his lies? Or is he telling the truth? Salt realizes that this case isn’t going to trial. It’s likely going to be decided right here and now. And in the best case scenario, he’s going to be dead. So he flees the building. That, of course, is where the brilliance of the script lies. As Salt goes on the run, we not only don’t know if Salt’s lying to Winter. We don’t know if he’s lying to us. Who is Edwin A. Salt?

Every once in awhile a script comes along that reminds you that what you thought was good writing, was actually only mildly acceptable writing. You are immersed in this world from the get-go. You visualize the movie on each page. The only criticisms I have are that they forgo a lot of the mystery in the last 40 pages and go a little heavy on the action. Still, the ending highway plane take-off scene is going to be IN-SAYNE. This script is a badass recipient of Wimmer’s awesomeness. Loved it.

I don’t know what’s happening lately. All these scripts are making my Top 25. Salt slides into lucky number 21!

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Salt: The last two scripts, which both made it into my Top 25, had very similar structures. Both had one scene where you met the characters, then the very next scene the movie goes on a torrid pace and never lets up. There’s something to be said for scripts that start up fast and keep you on a quick pace the whole way through. Of course they have to be done well to work, but as a spec, I think they have a better chance of capturing someone’s interest than a script that takes its time.

  • Anonymous

    I read Salt over a year ago, so my memory may be cloudy. I just did not see it working on the screen. The wife parts did not work for me as any sort of character motivation. The action scenes seemed to require some sort of superhuman abilities, not just spy training. This seemed beyond Mission Impossible in terms of non-superhero abilities. I just never got behind our hero.

    –Mitch McDeere

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08439555051697115476 Carson Reeves

    Mitch, you’re killing me! But yes, I agree the action stuff pushed the limits of physics.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14788035077875501686 David

    I would have liked to have seen Cruise in this.

  • Anonymous

    It will be interesting to see how they changed the script to suit Angelina.

  • http://www.yaho.com SAM

    Wow.

    This is exactly the kind of script Michael Bay orgasms over.

    And Mitch, of course it’s not realistic. It’s not even TRYING to be in the same universe of realistic.

    It’s still a very fun action movie with a couple touching moments.

    So how long before I can write like this?

  • http://www.yahoo.com SAM

    Actually… am I crazy or is there a big plot hole in this?

    ***WARNING SPOILERS**** SPOILERS *****

    **

    If winter’s in with the Russians, then why the hell was he trying to STOP Salt? Wasn’t Salt going to Philly their plan all along?

    And if Salt was working for the Russians, why would they send in Taktaroff to POINT him out and blow his cover?

    It makes no sense…

  • Anonymous

    Sam — you need to read the script again because I can’t believe you would actually ask a question that is so obviously answered in the story. Do yourself a favor and read carefully.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. I request a script (Salt) and it gets reviewed and posted two days later! Blog rocks!

  • http://www.yahoo.com SAM

    Thanks Anonymous. That was much easier than just answering my question. I’ll just go back and re-read the 118 pages now.

    ****SPOILERS **** SPOILERS***

    The only thing I can guess is Salt double crossed them by stealing the document before Winter had a chance to.

    But then, if the original plan was always for Winter to go in and steal it (like the video showed him trying to do), then why was Salt even there?

  • http://www.yahoo.com SAM

    for clarification, in case people got the wrong idea:

    I love this script.

  • Anonymous

    I’m guessing Salt DID steal it before Winter could. Didn’t he say that his lies (about being a patriotic American?) stopped being lies?
    Having said that it was never completely clear to me what was going on and who was double-crossing who. I enjoyed it, though it did become a little fantastic towards the end. Be interested to see how they’ve adapted it for a female lead.

  • Anonymous

    “Salt” with Angelina Jolie is currently filming in NYC. Lorenzo di Bonaventura producer.

    –Mitch McDeere

  • Anonymous

    The paparazzi photos of filming in NY show scenes not in the sript, e. g. Salt arrested after presumably an attempt on the President that involved an explosion rather a sniper shot.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09849159017020731880 Rica

    just read the script…I can not wait for the finished product. It should be amazing on screen, Jolie is known for her action stunts as well as her acting…can’t wait.

    To Mitch McDeere,

    Is there a novel out there? I could have sworn at one time there was a year or so ago, but I have not been able to find it.

  • Kristy (ducky)

    I liked this one. I’m interested to see the gender change and how that is going to play out in the movie. The beginning didn’t catch my attention at first with the phone talk but looking back having read what I read it’s fine. I could have done without all the crazy car scene chases or whatever. I would have been fine if they loaded up on the flatbed and went from there 5-7 pages earlier. Overall it had me guessing!

  • Anonymous

    very very nice script. i wonder wat kind of scenes in it would be altered to suit Jolie.
    i hope they didnt change much cuz i loved this one!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13593976245341180685 Cash Bailey

    I thought the script had three very distinct phases.

    First was the intriguing political thriller.

    Second was the “We wanna be BOURNE” chase film.

    And third was one of the most preposterous action set-pieces I’ve ever read in my life. I don’t think even THE MATRIX would have gotten away with that.

    Still I liked most of it. Although God knows how they’re gonna make this suitable for Jolie without turning it into a more po-faced MR AND MRS SMITH.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry I don’t know what Carson is talking about that this script rocks. I just read the damn thing, this is one awful cliched action script wanting to be a Bourne movie so bad. Thank God Cruise left this alone, this is a major bomb in the making.

  • Anonymous

    They brought in Brian Helgeland, who won an Oscar for LA Confidential and received another nom for Mystic River, to rewrite this script so what they are filming now will no doubt be very different from what is posted here.

  • PTMaatta

    I just read this script and I loved it! This is definitely one of the best scripts in Hollywood. While I’ll agree that it did, at times, get a little confusing about Winter’s position in the whole plot, I still must say that this script was damn near perfect.

    I thought the set-ups and pay-offs were expertly peppered throughout the script. Very skilled screenwriting at it’s finest.

    I truly see why Tom Cruise was “loosely attached” to this project for more than a year. And whether it was Columbia that released Cruise for his salary demand, or his age, or his reputation (which is BS because his rep was worse when he became attached, than when he left) or it was Cruise he dropped out due to it’s similarity to his Ethan Hunt character, I wish Cruise had signed on.

    Not sure if this’ll work with Angelina Jolie. There’s only so many times I can watch Jolie “expertly” handling knives on screen without thinking “been here, done that”, but maybe they won’t screw it up. But I fear this could end up looking just like the over stylized “Wanted”.

    This always seems to happen. A stellar script is written. Is sold. Then gets re-written a million times over before it’s ruined and turned into generic, retread garbage.

    Reading this well-researched, acutely detailed script, it’s no wonder Wimmer took five years working on it.

    I remember an article from late 2002, that Wimmer did while promoting “Equilibrium” where he spoke about his next project at the time. A script then titled “The Far-Reaching Philosophy of Edwin A. Salt”. A script he said was “very much about men and my wife.”

    Kurt Wimmer, you are now one of my favorite writers. EXCELLENT SCRIPT!

  • PTMaatta

    By the way… that quote was “very much about ME and my wife.” I apologize for that mistake.

  • http://davidmelkevik.wordpress.com/ davidmelkevik

    Just got around to reading this but Kurt Wimmer — that man can write action. I didn’t like the first page but after that I couldn’t put it down. A true rollercoaster of a script, Act 1 carefully takes you up to the top until Taktaroff say his “Name is Salt. Edwin A. Salt” and suddenly it drops you for a 90 page thril ride. A wonderful screenplay.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05408214011758642852 Dan

    Um, am I missing something? This was dumb. Really, really dumb. Clearly written by someone unfamiliar with the spy thriller genre and relying on action movie cliches to compensate for shortcomings in plot and characterization. The good news is that with Brian “LA Confidential” Helgeland doing rewrites, the final product may actually be watchable.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14733377693092937712 william

    I think Dan is an idiot.

  • Sam

    I guess this is good in terms of a Hollywood producer looking for a script that will get a good return, but a good script in terms of writing? Really? I knew I was reading an over the top spy thriller so I gave it some leeway but it still managed to become completely unbelievable. I can’t believe this is what people think is a good script.

  • Anonymous

    Where do writers (= geeks and nerds) learn to talk like tough guys?

    “Prestidigitation! Amateur fucking
    sleight-of-hand. Like pulling jelly
    beans from little girl’s ears.”

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  • joedan1

    great script. it is considered a great script (for those wondering) cos it is entertaining from start to finish. as a spec, it really kills it. no reader is gonna add this to the pile of 99 other rubbish scripts they just read.
    the dialogue and the action; all moving.
    it has mass appeal n enough details to be hi-tech but not enough to be nerdy and too brainy.
    he uses all elements for capturing an audience timely n sparingly.
    really liked the end.
    can see why jolie signed on. almost more fun than the tourist (action-wise).
    hope both films end up being as fun on screen as they are on paper.

  • Bacchus1

    Great spec, yes. Great movie? No way. Why? because it’s well written, but the story itself sucks.

    I agree with all those who see this as a compilation of tired clichés. I know you have to expect a little bit of fantasy, but the most powerful spy thrillers are those that stay within the limits of reality, because you can actually BELIEVE what you see, and therefore imagine that it could be happening for real.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10020645854195822060 FeNaaa
  • Anonymous

    I’d love to read this but there’s no link. If anyone has ‘Salt’, would they be kind enough to email it to me?

    dgburton2@yahoo.com

    Thanks.

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  • Anonymous

    Screening this tonight. I am actually looking forward to it since reading the script.

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  • Anonymous

    Can someone please email me the script: kevinj7@gmail.com

    Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Cd someone please email it to me too. I have a sizable script library so if you need something in return, give me a shout and chances are I’ll have it

    Thanks

    zmb.nyc@gmail.com

  • Anonymous

    Hey, could you email me a copy of Salt as well, or repost the link? I’m going to see Salt next week and would like to read the original screenplay first. Thanks for the review!

    sisterfriend1@gmail.com

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12140498912080884384 Paul

    Can someone email the script? I watched the film, but I’d like to see the original script. psunvincent@gmail.com

  • Anonymous

    try mypdfscriptsdotcom. :)

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