a critiQal film review Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Plot: John (Pitt) and Jane Smith (Jolie), a couple in a stagnating marriage, live a deceptively mundane existence. However, each has been hiding a secret from the other: they are assassins working for adversarial agencies. When they are both assigned to kill the same target, Benjamin Danz (Brody), the truth comes to the surface. Finally free from their cover stories, they discover that they have been assigned to kill each other, sparking a series of explosive attacks.

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When looking for a film to review for this Saturday, we decided to look back a few years. Not as far as we used to in our Retro Review Saturdays (and now our TBT Reviews), but a couple of years, at least. Turns out, we went back over a decade anyway, to Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

With the events that have happened since (i.e., Brad Pitt breaking up with Jennifer Aniston and marrying Angelina Jolie after this movie was made), Mr. & Mrs. Smith is more noted these days for it’s celebrity gossip footnote rather than the film itself. But, is that a mistake, and viewers aren’t appreciating the fun of the film itself? We decided to find out.

Viewers know that Angelina Jolie can turn on the smoky charm when she wants to (see The Tourist), and she does so here in spades, yet doesn’t damage her tough girl persona. In fact, she kind of outperforms Brad Pitt in the “tough” category several times throughout the film.

Brad Pitt, who can play more serious roles (Se7en (1995)), keeps his performance on the light side here, and several of his gestures are reminiscent of his goofier characters in 12 Monkeys (1995) and the like. He’s not bad, but his action chops have gotten better since (World War Z (2013)).

Together, they are quite the pair. Whether fighting each other or teaming up, Jolie and Pitt are quite the dynamic couple in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. They both seem to jump into their roles with relish, and share the screen well with each other. And their chemistry seems white hot. While they haven’t teamed up much since, the early relationship apparently going on off-screen probably helped make this couple even better in the film.

Vince Vaughn, (who dated Jennifer Aniston for a while, and made his own version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith a year later with The Break-Up), is the only real mis-cast of this film. His whole character – supposedly a hitman who lives in his mother’s basement – is a joke, and he doesn’t do anything at all with the role. Thankfully, he doesn’t get that much screen time, aside from a few petty rants, and then he’s quickly gone from the screen again.

The rest of the cast doesn’t get to do that much, taking a backseat to the Pitt/Jolie powerhouse, so Perrey Reeves, Jennifer Morrison and Kerry Washington (among others) don’t really get to shine at all. Their appearances, unlike Vaughn, could have been lengthened and the viewer would have not minded at all. Another drawback.

The plot is solid, and director Doug Liman does his best to move Mr. & Mrs. Smith quickly along. There are a lot of sequences to get through, and Liman does his best to keep the pace brisk without sacrificing the integrity of the film. This film was probably good practice for him, before he went on to tackle Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity (2002).

The action sequences are, let’s face it, over-the-top. In spite of that, the viewer never loses focus on where the characters are, thanks to the director and cinematographer not losing sight of the film’s stars. Explosions are fun, but if you lose the storyline, they aren’t worth it. With all the bullets flying, the viewer may find their suspension of disbelief strained a bit by the nigh invulnerability of the characters, but that’s typical of any popcorn flick.

And, that’s exactly what Mr. & Mrs. Smith is – a popcorn-chomping good time. It’s action-packed, and darkly funny. Sure, Vaughn is supposed to be the comic relief, but Pitt and Jolie’s banter takes care of that – and is a lot funnier – so Vince is needed even less. In fact, less Vince (or even better, none at all) and more Kerry/Perrey/Jennifer would have been nice. Still, there’s no denying the power of Pitt and Jolie on-screen in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and they are the main reason this film is so much fun.

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