“Salt” by Phillip Noyce Film Analysis

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Topic: Art & Design
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Salt is a 2010 movie directed by Phillip Noyce and starring Angelina Jolie and Live Schreiber. Depicting a story of a CIA agent Evelyn Salt, this thriller film is based upon the suspicion that the main female character is a Russian spy.

The plot of the movie contains plenty of examples of more or less successful argumentation of the characters who want to defend their position and achieve particular goals by persuading the target audience to share their opinion. The interrogation of a Russian defector Orlov who accuses Salt of being a Russian spy can be seen as an example of successful argumentation and effective implementation of rhetorical techniques by the speaker.

The plot of the film under consideration contradicts some principles of traditional movies about secret agents and is full of unpredictable episodes. The opening scenes of the film depict Salt being tortured in a prison in North Korea because she is suspected of being an American spy. Actually, this episode complicates the plot in general and shows the moral strength of the main female character contradicting her charming appearance.

After Salt is released in the course of the prisoner exchange, the audience meets her fellow agent Ted Winter and her future husband Michael Krauser for the first time. Salt warns Krause that relations with her can be dangerous for him because she is a CIA agent. In fact, the life story of the main female character is so complicated that she cannot tell all the truth but realizes her responsibility for the safety of people surrounding her.

Two years later, during the interrogation of the Russian defender Orlov, he accuses Evelyn of being a Russian spy. Later on, it is cleared out that it was Orlov himself who trained Evelyn and other Soviet children for infiltrating the American government. The only reason for which he accuses Salt at CIA is her marriage which in Orlov’s opinion was not a part of her mission as a secret agent. Shocked with this accusation, Evelyn escapes and tries to find her husband Krause, who is kidnapped and later killed by Orlov.

The development of the plot lines demonstrates the inner struggle inside of Evelyn’s soul. As a part of her mission, she kills Matveyev, the Russian President. However, later on, her personal feelings prevail and she betrays Orlov which contradicts the generally accepted rules of traditional stories about secret agents. Thus, the intersection of human and state interests in destiny of one person and the inner struggle in the soul of the main character adds special appeal to the plot of the movie.

The interrogation of Orlov during which he accuses Salt of being a Russian secret agent and manages to persuade CIA no matter how insane his claim sounds, is an example of effective composition of argumentation. Looking into Evelyn’s eyes, the Russian defector presents his claim, develops and supports it. Later on, when the audience gets to know that it was actually Orlov himself who trained Salt, the impression from this scene is intensified.

After admitting that he has cancer and it is the reason for telling the truth, Orlov tells a story of a small Russian girl who was kidnapped and trained as a secret agent for fulfilling a secret mission in America. “We must recognize that arguments occur within a social context–they are the process/product of people interacting, and relating” (“The Rhetorical Triangle”). Certainly, Orlov formulated his claim, taking into account the peculiarities of CIA agents as his target audience.

He confesses that he has cancer, however, Evelyn’s condolence sounds rather formal than sincere. Thus, this statement could affect other listeners, but it was not the case with CIA. The ending of Orlov’s speech is rather shocking because in it the defector admits that the name of the girl is Evelyn Salt (Salt). Nobody expects such an ending – neither the characters of the film nor spectators.

The background voice saying that the lie detector verified Orlov’s testimony as truthful and Salt’s shock intensify the impression from the scene. Thus, the social context of CIA as a target audience complicated Orlov’s task but his argumentation was successful for the same reason because the verification of the lie detector speaks louder than Orlov’s words.

Disregarding the success of Orlov’s speech, it can be stated that he would not succeed by implementing Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle only and his success has cause-and-effect character. “Delivery obviously has much to do with how one establishes ethos and appeals through pathos, and in this sense is complementary to Invention, which is more strictly concerned with logos” (Livingston 45). Thus, Orlov meets the main requirements of Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle.

Combination of the ethos element (credibility of the Russian defector and an individual who has cancer as a speaker), pathos element (Orlov tells a sad story about his disease and kidnapping and training of Russian children for appealing to listeners’ feelings) and logos elements (logical reasoning) was the secret of Orlov’s success (Salt). Composition of rhetorical transactions requires taking into consideration the context and the speaker’s main intention in delivering the speech (Roskelly and Joliffe 38).

CIA agents as the target audience complicated Orlov’s task significantly, but he managed to provide sufficient arguments and details concerning Salt’s life and career for persuading them.

Actually, there are particular holes in his logic because Orlov fails to inform his listeners what is the source of his information as well as his main objective for making the claim. However, putting emphasis upon ethos and pathos elements, and after his speech passes the verification procedure of the lie detector, the speaker manages to compensate this hole.

The fact that Russian defector managed to raise doubts concerning the personality of Evelyn, one of the best CIA agents in the movie Salt, can be explained with Orlov’s successful implementation of the main rhetorical principles and effective combination of the ethos, pathos and logos elements of his speech along with peculiarities of the social context of CIA interrogation.

Works Cited

Livingston, Ruth. Advanced Public Speaking: Dynamics and Techniques. New York: Xlibris Corporation, 2010. Print.

Roskelly, Hephzibah, and David A. Joliffe. Everyday Use: Rhetoric at Work in Reading and Writing. New York: Pearson Education, 2005. Print.

Salt. Dir. Phillip Noyce Perf. Angelina Jolie, Live Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, August Diehl and Daniel Olbrychski. Columbia Pictures, 2010. Film.

“The Rhetorical Triangle”. The University of Oklahoma Website. Web.