I’ve seen this called a cross between The War of the Roses and True Lies, and that isn’t that far off the mark. It isn’t quite as dark and intelligent as the former, and it is not as adventurous as the latter, but what it is is an absolute blast from start to finish. It is a perfect example of what fun cinema is, it doesn’t aim too high, rather it banks on the chemistry of it’s leads to bring plausibility to completely implausible situations.
The story is simple enough to outline without giving anything away, as the plot is not what this movie is about. John and Jane Smith are married, they each lead a secret life as assassins. When they leave to go to work they are not going to the office that they claim to be, rather they are going on globe trotting missions to find their targets…. and kill them. At night, or after a “business trip”, they return home to each other and their mundane lives. That is until they are both sent on missions with the same target, then the secret is out and all hell breaks loose. The marriage dissolves and they start targeting each other. They slowly realize they do actually love each other, get back together and start fighting everybody else. That’s pretty much it.
There are a couple of factors which make this movie rise above the typical bland action/comedy. First and foremost are the fun performances from the leads Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Another are the supporting performance from Vince Vaughn and the faceless hordes. Thirdly the script from Simon Kinberg. And finally the direction from Doug Liman.
First the leads. Pitt and Jolie put on a sheer display of star power and have great chemistry on the screen. Regardless of the off camera stories, when they are on-screen together it is fantastic. the timing is impeccable, their ability to ground the free flying antics and make it believable is a great feat. Jolie looks great here, and Pitt pulls off the nonchalant suave like no other, almost a continuation of his Ocean’s 11/12 character. When two actors have this chemistry, it is hard to describe, but I will say that I wouldn’t mind seeing them work together again in the future. Not necessarily a sequel, but something, perhaps a romantic comedy that pays homage to old school films from the 50’s and 60’s?
Next there are the supporting performances. Vince Vaughn hits all the right notes as Eddie, John’s best friend. Always ready with a quip. Vaughn has been making great strides in his comedic timing and has been on a role the past few years. This is a small role, but only furthers his work. A guy with a lot of guns who lives with his mother? Very funny. Then there is the endless supply of commandos ready to be picked off by our heroes. These guys, and their contributions here, and in other films, tends to go largely unnoticed. The film would not be the same without the anonymous mass of would be killers.
The script helps bring this up a notch too. It is a well written collection of traded barbs and loosely hidden twists. Setting the whole thing within the framework of the marriage counseling is great. Without it the rest of the film would have slipped on the impact side of things. The dialog is quick witty, and belongs not in our world, but in some alternate James Bond type reality. It may not be the greatest script ever written, but it is fun and well paced.
That brings us to Doug Liman. His previous film was The Bourne Identity, in that film he displayed an ability to deliver exciting action sequences that relied on practical effects rather the making use of extensive CG. Now, I am not against using lots of CG, but sometimes it is a breath of fresh air to see a director limit it and use the practical variety, it gives the film a different feel. In Mr. & Mrs. Smith he brings that flavor back to the screen, with the added dose of comedy. He was able to make use of the leads natural chemistry and has staged some exhilarating set action pieces using those practical effects. I look forward to see his continued use of this in the future.
Bottomline. This is definitely a case of style over substance, and the end result is a blast. It survives on the star power and fun setup. This is not a movie you see to change your life, or if you are looking for serious cinema. But, if you are just looking to have a good time, see stuff blow up real good and laugh, this is the movie for you.
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