While Inception is still drawing crowds with it's "mind-bending" plot twists, Sony pictures is hoping that movie audiences are looking for more traditional popcorn fare this weekend--namely, its Angelina Jolie spy-thriller Salt. The film, which was originally fashioned for Tom Cruise, has been quick to compare itself with the critically acclaimed (and lucrative) Bourne trilogy. Will Jolie elevate the action flick to "must-see" status, or will the expensive title wilt in the face of Christopher Nolan's latest juggernaut?

Pundits happily weigh in (with plenty of "take it with a grain of salt" quips):

  • Jolie Is 'Lady Bourne' in the best possible way, exclaims Ned Ehrbar at Metro World News. It shares the better aspects of the Matt Damon franchise's "spy out in the cold" DNA. At the same time, Salt feels retro--in the best possible sense of the word--thanks in large part to something audiences haven't seen in a while: Russian bad guys."

  • Salt Is The Opposite Of Inception, notes Michael Phillips at the Chicago Tribune--but both are worth seeing. Like Jason Bourne, Phillips writes, Jolie alternates between "ace survivor" and "superhuman freak" before surviving "one too many unsurvivable accidents." But how is she supposed to blend into a crowd? "[Her] face is just too distinctively feral, yet glamorous, to blend in among extras."

  • Brings A Taste of Bourne writes Scott Ross at NBC News, and yet still manages to work on its own terms. But what's up with those Russian bad guys? "It's funny, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, aliens from outer-space became the go-to baddies in Hollywood. Now, with the U.S. fighting wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the Russkies are the silver-screen evildoers once again."

  • Matt Damon Could've Played The Role, observes Peter Rainer at the Christian Science Monitor, and the result would have been the same. It's a "throwback" action flick, nostalgic for the Cold War, but doesn't seem fit to become a franchise ("it's too wiggy and perverse for that," he writes). He also notes that "at a time when the real world of modern global terrorism inserts itself into even the most comic book-style escapades ... it's no wonder that political action filmmakers are looking for ways to heat up the screen without giving audiences real-world nightmares."

  • It's Bourne For Dummies, quips The Atlantic's Christopher Orr, who found it a "dull, humorless" enterprise. "A movie as harebrained as this needs a hint of wit and self-awareness, but Salt is dour and self-serious to a fault, right down to the murdered loved ones and grit-toothed promises of vengeance. This is a film so stolid that it offers a Russian agent with retractable shoe blades without even a whiff of irony."