John and Jane Smith are a seemingly happy couple. They live a pretty normal but almost mundane existence of shared meals, kissed farewells and chats about the color of their curtains. They even go to therapy together, purportedly to iron out their differences. It turns out, however, that they have a lot more in common than they both realize. You see, they both have secret lives—they are both assassins. We’re not talking some street-punks you might hire in a bar, or leather coat wearing mafia hit-men, they are the bes… at their game. Armed to the teeth with the latest military equipment, they swoop into high risk situations, execute their targets with professionalism and glide out using gadgets that would make Bond jealous. Of course they don’t know what each other truly do for a living, lying and pretending on a daily basis and always staying one step ahead of being caught until one day they meet on an operation and suddenly—understandably—everything changes. Cue lots of matrimonial gunplay, fisticuffs and general banter as the fight their way to a stalemate before deciding what they are going to do from then on. Needless to say the respective agencies that employ them are none too happy about the situation that they are in and require each one to kill the other. Will they be able to survive and—more importantly—save their marriage?
Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a romantic comedy action vehicle which weighs heavily on the final element to keep audiences gripped. Many of movies over the years have adopted a similarly strange mix to lighten an otherwise potentially serious subject and make the proceedings more appealing for a wider audience, but with debatable results. The trouble is, if you go for a Last Action Hero-style near-spoof, you risk losing all sense of dramatic tension and potentially all interest that the audiences might have in the film.
In Mr and Mrs Smith they have kept the comedy almost entirely in line with the dramatic situation, only occasionally introducing it into the action to allow the characters to have a bit of fun. And the result is that it works for the most part. Sure, they spend an almost overlong time at the beginning introducing you to a situation which, if you have seen the trailer, you are already well versed in – before cutting to the action – but once the more important story elements kick it the movie becomes much more enjoyable. A lot of the praise for this should really be laid upon the shoulders of the Smiths, or at least the actors who portray them.
Originally due to be Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman, when Kidman left, so did Pitt, and Johnny Depp was considered as a replacement lead. However, when Angelina Jolie was signed on, Pitt was understandably eager to be on board once again. They are both big names to have associated with a picture like this and it is nice to see them get together and have so much fun and, to be honest, I’m certain Kidman couldn’t have done a better job than Jolie even if Johnny Depp could have given Pitt a run for his money as Mr. Smith (and it might have been an interesting new role for him to take on). Still, what we have here is a good combination. Pitt turns in a performance that will go down as yet another standard Brad Pitt character, but this is not a criticism. He is an immensely interesting actor, even if he is almost always playing ‘himself’. There have been noticeable exceptions, like Se7en and Twelve Monkeys, but I am quite happy to see him doing his thing in a harmless action-comedy like this.
Angelina Jolie is undeniably beautiful, but I’m not sure whether I’ve often seen her show much talent in her roles. For example, her Tomb Raider exploits have already proven that she is a capable action heroine but she has never been able to combine these skills with anything other than wooden acting. Here, as Jane Smith, she is totally at ease. Whether wielding a sniper rifle or verbally (and physically) sparring with her husband, the character seems practically tailored for her. Understandably she relies heavily on Brad Pitt’s quick wit and occasionally almost slapstick antics to provide a foil to her slightly more straight behavior, but this works a treat given the fact that her character is often the more professional of the two. They both seem very comfortable with one another and it is a joy to watch them together for almost the entire runtime of the movie, either fighting amidst themselves or against others.
It is also worth mentioning Vince Vaughn, despite the fact that his role is criminally small. As I’ve often read and agree, he’s never really beaten his Swingers performance alongside Jon Favreau but he is still consistently one of the funniest elements of anything he gets a part in, however big or small, and this is no exception. From what I have gleaned, the ending of the movie suffered several re-shoots and much editing and you can tell from the abruptness of it that perhaps something is missing, but it is still a reasonably unexpected way for things to go (even if it doesn’t make a great deal of sense).
Overall Mr and Mrs Smith is a perfectly enjoyable couple of hours’ worth of watching. Predominantly a romantic drama at first, it soon shifts to comedy and action, shifting the action up a gear for the crescendo to the finale, and this formula capably keeps you interested for the duration (In fact it reminded me a great deal of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid spliced with Grosse Point Blank – although not as good as either—in its mixture of action, comedy and relationships). Fans of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt will happily sit back to see their favorite stars trade bullets and banter, and the melting-pot mix of genres potentially makes this attractive for wider audiences—just don’t expect it to be particularly standout in any one of them, even if it does a pretty good job at being satisfying as a whole
Mr. and Mrs. Smith is presented with an anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio widescreen transfer that looks absolutely fabulous. It has excellent detail throughout, with few scenes that exhibit any discernable softness, a little noticeable but negligible edge enhancement (mainly during the effects shots) but simply no grain. The color scheme is broad and well represented, from the superb skin tones to the golden sun-blazed desert sequences and clinical metallic gleam of the military buildings. The transfer also exhibits absolutely no sign of print damage at all, rounding off a stellar presentation for the movie.
The audio of Mr. & Mrs. Smith nicely complemented the movie. This DVD included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Overall, I thought the pair sounded virtually identical with one minor difference. At the nine-minute and 36-second mark of the DTS mix, I noticed a brief dropout. The track went totally silent for one second. This didn’t mar the Dolby edition. I didn’t think this was a major problem, but it did create a short distraction. Otherwise from the aforementioned dropout, both tracks were terrific. The sound-fields themselves seemed solid. All five channels provided a lot of information through most of the movie. Effects blasted from all around us much of the time, especially during the action sequences. Speech sounded natural and warm, and I noticed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music seemed clear and lively, with good definition and delineation to the frisky score. Effects appeared distinct and accurate and packed a solid punch as well. The movie presented very solid dynamics, with clean highs and some powerful but tight bass. The audio of Smith provided a fine complement for the action that accentuated the material.
While restricted to a single disc, that doesn’t mean the DVD of Smith comes with a sparse roster of supplements.
- Commentary with director Doug Liman and screenwriter Simon Kinberg: Both men sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. We learn why Liman came onto the project and hear about other topics like working with Pitt and Jolie, Pitt’s nervousness about dancing, problems getting the script made and changes that occurred along the way, the film’s tone and risks with this kind of project, its treatment of action and violence, music, stunts and action sequences, sets, locations and the main house, and all sorts of notes about various challenges. That’s a long list of subjects addressed, and they add up to a terrific commentary. Liman and Kinberg run through the topics with gusto and they never sag. They maintain a strong energy as they give us tons of valuable insights into the production. As natural per many director commentaries, there is too much praise going on. But, since there is so much useful information being conveyed here, I am able to forgive that. A very informative track that is well worth a listen.
- Commentary with producers Lucas Foster and Akiva Goldsman: The two producers also sit together for a running, screen-specific track. Although they echo many of the subjects covered by Liman and Kinberg, they do so from a different slant. We hear more about script and story changes along with budgetary concerns, locations, and other production issues. Because some of the same material appears, I doubt you’ll find as much to enjoy here. Nonetheless, since the pair look at things from the producer’s point of view, they bring a fresh take on the issues and uncover a fair amount we don’t hear in the first commentary. Both have a good chemistry that results in another strong commentary track.
- Commentary with editor Michael Tronick, production designer Jeff Mann and visual effects supervisor Kevin Elam:Tronick and Mann sit together for a running, screen-specific piece, while Elam is on his own. Shockingly, the commentary mainly looks at editing, production design, and visual effects. We get notes on pacing and cutting, the film’s look and set details, and the use of various forms of effects. This is the easily the weakest of the three commentaries for a few reasons. For one, it suffers from the most dead air, as some notable gaps occur. In addition, it repeats enough information from the first two to become a little tedious at times. I don’t blame the speakers for that – repetition is inevitable in this kind of situation. Still, the unique perspectives offered mean that we learn quite a lot of new material. I think Mann offers the best comments as he digs into the reasoning behind his visual choices. If you aren’t burned out with too much information by this point, give this commentary a listen to.
- Making a Scene(8:03): Aired on the Fox Movie Channel, this looks at the film’s “hood jump” sequence and includes remarks from Liman, Kinberg, Goldsman, Tronick, Foster, actor Angelina Jolie, and second unit director/stunt coordinator Simon Crane. It covers the scene’s development and technical issues. This is one feature that turns into a reasonably deep and informative piece.
- Deleted Scenes(8:45): The deleted scenes on this disc include “John and Eddie in the Kitchen” “House Cleaning”, and “HomeMade Store Shootout”. These three scenes stand out as extended scenes. “The “Shootout” is something of a bore since it consists of nothing more than additional mayhem, but the other two are interesting. “Kitchen” is especially fun since it focuses on Vince Vaughn’s comedic riffing.
- Trailers: Here we find trailers for Smith along with a “soundtrack spot” and a promo for Family Guy. In addition, the Inside Look includes a trailer for The Sentinel.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith almost became submerged in the tabloid converge surrounding the film and its actors. The film ends up being able to successfully balance action and romantic comedy in a skillful manner to become a light and enjoyable piece of work. The DVD presents very good picture and sound. It doesn’t boast a long roster of extras, but all three commentary tracks provide enough insight into the film to satisfy a fan of the film. A strong recommendation, but be forewarned, as it is rumored, per typical Fox, that an upcoming uncut edition is being rumored to be in the Fox schedule for next year, probably in two-disc format. If this does not worry you, definitely do yourself the favor and pick this film up. You won’t be disappointed.
Special Features List
- Commentary with director Doug Liman and screenwriter Simon Kinberg
- Commentary with producers Lucas Foster and Akiva Goldsman
- Commentary with editor Michael Tronick, production designer Jeff Mann and visual effects supervisor Kevin Elam
- Making a Scene
- Deleted Scenes