© 2005 Ray Wong
Stars: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn, Adam Brody, Kerry Washington, Keith David
Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Simon Kinberg
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense violence, sexual content, strong language
Running time: 120 minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total Score – 7.2 out of 10
MR & MRS SMITH, a film about a married couple, surely is not an original title. There was one in 1941, then another in 1996 with Scott Bakula which involved two spies that posed as a married couple. This time around, Mr. Pitt and Ms. Jolie, two of the hottest stars in the world, team up to play assassins who are actually married.
John (Pitt) and Jane (Jolie) Smith have been married for “five or six” years. They met in a war-torn Bogotá, Columbia and fell madly in love. They got married within six months. Now, their marriage is on the verge of disintegrating into nothing – even going to marriage counseling doesn’t help. They don’t communicate anymore, and their lives are beset with lies.
It turns out John is not a building contractor and Jane (we could only guess her maiden name is Doe) is not a corporate executive. Instead, they work secretly as top-rated assassins. And they manage to keep their secret identities from each other for all the years! The charade comes to an end when their respective agencies have them going after the same mark: Benjamin Diaz (Brody). Once their identities are revealed, they have no choice but go after and kill each other.
Separate, Pitt (TROY) and Jolie (ALEXANDER) are both attractive and capable actors (Jolie has an Oscar to prove it). Together, they sizzle on screen. They have such chemistry together, no wonder people are speculating the “are they, are they not” question. And that sexual chemistry is so very important in a movie like this and I think the filmmakers have hit a jackpot. Pitt is smug and vulnerable – in certain scenes he seems especially genuine and overwhelmed by Jane’s strength. Jolie, on the other hand, plays the cool, sharp, almost cold-hearted “bitch” perfectly, but we all know Jane’s actually a good person with a heart. It’s not any easy task to make us root for two protagonists who kill people for money. But these characters are so engaging that we definitely buy it.
Vaughn (BE COOL), once a dashing leading man, is now comfortable playing second bananas with great comical flare. Brody (GRIND) doesn’t really have much to do. His character is a plot point, and nothing more. Washington (RAY) plays Jane’s assistant Jasmine with grace and pizzazz. They all do their part in filling in the spaces when Pitt and Jolie are not on screen. This is ultimately a Pitt-Jolie film, because the supporting cast is merely there to support them.
Kinberg’s (XXX: STATE OF THE UNION) high-concept script is taut and fun. The banter between Pitt and Jolie is especially witty and sharp. He also has the good sense of juxtaposing high-power action sequences with marital bickering. Comic-book actions aside, this film really is a romantic-slash-screwball comedy. Everything is exaggerated to the max and part of the fun is for us to throw away all logic and just go with the ride. Pure popcorn, here.
Director Liman (BOURNE SUPREMACY) juggles smoothly between adrenaline-laden action scenes with the intimate moments. He handles the humor very well, too. The stunts are well conceived and executed (one does expect Jason Bourne or Spiderman to show up). The climatic scene has a John Woo feel to it, and a hint of THELMA & LOUISE or BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID. Everything is tongue-in-cheek, of course.
Occasionally, the story gets bogged down by over-the-top, mind-numbing action sequences. The film is at its best when Pitt and Jolie are allowed to show their emotional sides in the quieter moments, and three scenes come immediately to mind: 1) after their first night in Bogotá, Jane woke up to an empty bed, resigned to the fact that it was just a one night stand, when John walked in with breakfast; 2) when John and Jane danced an erotic but comical tango; 3) when John and Jane talked about their first impressions as they raced home for their death match. These are moments that set the film apart from yet another film with car crashes and big explosions. Pitt and Jolie are delicious as the Smiths – just don’t expect to be invited over for dinner anytime soon.