Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is being tortured in a prison in North Korea on suspicion of being an American spy. Her boyfriend, arachnologist Mike Krause (August Diehl), generates so much publicity about Salt's imprisonment that the CIA is forced to arrange a prisoner exchange, despite the agency's policy against it. Salt's CIA colleague Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) greets Salt at the border. As they drive away, Mike proposes marriage, despite Salt's admission to Mike that she is in fact a CIA operative.
Two years later, on Salt and Mike's wedding anniversary, a Russian defector named Oleg Vasilyevich Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) walks into Salt's office. Salt interrogates him, with Winter and CIA counterintelligence officer Darryl Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) observing. Orlov claims that, on "Day X", highly trained Russian sleeper agents known as "KAs" will destroy the U.S. Orlov tells them that Agent "KA-12" will assassinate Russian president Boris Matveyev (Olek Krupa) at the funeral of the American Vice President. Orlov reveals that KA-12 is named Evelyn Salt, and lie detectors confirm his entire story. Peabody orders Salt be detained, while Orlov kills two agents and escapes. In the confusion, Salt is able to escape from the building, running barefoot through the street. While the CIA is searching for her, Salt discovers that her husband was kidnapped.
A while later at the funeral, Salt appears to succeed in killing President Matveyev, and then surrenders herself. Matveyev is declared dead. Salt escapes again and heads to a barge where Orlov is hiding with other sleeper agents. In a series of flashbacks, Salt recalls growing up in the Soviet Union and being trained with other children. On the barge, Orlov welcomes her back and has Mike killed in front of her. When Salt shows no reaction, Orlov is convinced she is loyal and begins briefing her on her next mission. She is to rendezvous with another KA who will help her assassinate the American president. She kills Orlov and the other agents before leaving. She then meets with KA Shnaider (Corey Stoll), who uses his cover as a Czech NATO liaison to get Salt into the White House. Once inside, Shnaider launches a suicide attack to force agents to move the President (Hunt Block) to an underground bunker, accompanied by Winter. Salt follows them and manages to enter the bunker before it is sealed.
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