As far as I'm concerned, 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' may as well have guilty pleasure written all over its cover. The film's theatrical release may have been dogged by poor reviews and an audience distracted by the emergence of the real life dramedy affectionately known as "Brangelina," but I've always felt it got a bad rap. I'm certainly not going to make a case for it being a perfect film, but in my humble opinion, it's far better than most reviewers would have you believe.
After six years of marriage, John and Jane Smith (Pitt and Jolie) have grown bored with their marriage and safe suburban lives. However, both John and Jane are oblivious to their spouse's true career -- as it turns out, each of the Smiths are assassins working for rival agencies. When a botched hit simultaneously uncovers their individual secrets, each spouse is given a deadline to kill the other. With loaded guns and hesitant hearts, the Smiths must decide whether to simply follow orders or to finally work together to take control of their relationship.
Director Doug Liman ('Go,' 'The Bourne Identity') crafts 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' as a quirky romantic comedy packed with kinetic gunplay, tongue-in-cheek humor, and a comicbook sensibility that suggests the film shouldn't be taken too seriously. The result is as playful as his cast's on-screen chemistry. His opening act toys with the humdrum lifestyle of the Smiths and develops an amusing commentary on the comical blandness of married life. Even when the action finally kicks into high gear, Liman doesn't allow explosions and car chases to dampen the lighthearted tone of the proceedings. Instead, the flick evolves into a blend of bullets and bravado that's anchored by the charm of its principal actors.
Critics often ridicule 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' for two reasons -- they think Pitt and Jolie lack convincing on-screen chemistry and they despise the film's use of self-referential humor. I just don't see a problem with either. Pitt and Jolie are clearly having a blast together on set and I think it translates perfectly onto the screen. Their scenes sizzle with an effortless fluidity that feels organic and natural. Likewise, the use of self-referential humor is restrained and doesn't feel derivative. Liman keeps his nods subtle enough that they feel more like inside jokes. When a supporting character appears wearing a 'Fight Club' shirt, I couldn't stop chuckling, but my wife was confused by my reaction because she didn't catch the gag.
I'll admit there isn't an abundance of substance below the film's surface -- the plot certainly has holes, the supporting characters are largely expositional, and the story developments are pretty convenient. Even so, the sheer entertainment value of 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' allows me to ignore most of these shortcomings. Liman and company never forget that the primary function of an action/comedy is to entertain its audience, infusing 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' with a contagious energy that gives the film genuine momentum. Viewers looking for anything more significant than this sort of exhilarating vibe may walk away disappointed, but I think fans of films like 'Ocean's 11' will be all too familiar with what I'm trying to describe.
My only serious complaint is that the last five minutes of the film are an anti-climactic cop out. Liman originally shot a showdown with villains played by Jacqueline Bisset and Terrence Stamp. When that didn't work out to his satisfaction, he shot another confrontational send off with Keith David and Angela Bassett. For whatever reason, he scrapped both and went with a faceless denouement that always makes me feel like I accidentally hit the chapter skip button on my remote.
In the end, 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' is an enjoyable ride packed with grin-inducing dialogue and entertaining action scenes. It's not perfect, but it is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, predicting your love or hate of the film is near impossible since it'll come down to pure personal taste. What can I say? Some people dig it... some people despise it. Regardless, this guilty pleasure has earned a comfortable home on my shelf.
(Note that like the original 2005 DVD release, this Blu-ray edition of 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' features the theatrical PG-13 version of the film -- not the Unrated Director's Cut that was released on DVD in 2006.)
'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' debuts on Blu-ray with a generally strong 1080p/AVC transfer. Liman may shift the palette every chance he gets, but it never looks dull or murky. The colors immediately caught my attention -- the warm glow of the Smith household, the steel sheen of Jane's office, and the sun-bleached heat of the desert look wonderful in high definition. Detail is also impressive and represents a substantial improvement over both of the previously-released standard DVDs. Clothing textures receive the most noticeable boost, but on-screen text and other fine details are extremely sharp as well. Watch the dance between John and Jane -- notice the stitching in their clothes, the faces in the background and the grain of the wood on the walls.
I'm also pleased to report that the image isn't disrupted by artifacting or source noise -- in fact, the only thing that looks out of place is an intentionally spiked grainfield during the Columbian flashback. The one downside to this sort of clean source is that it seems to be a result of a fair amount of post processing, which certainly produces a smoother image overall, but inadvertently softens certain textures (skin in particular) in low lit scenes.
I have some other minor technical complaints, as well. First, I caught a tiny bit of edge enhancement in a few shots (watch the scenes in the diner very carefully). Second, the film occasionally uses boosted contrast levels to embed the image with hot whites and elevated primaries (take a look at the scene involving the attempted elevator assassination). Finally, there are a handful of shots where crushing and delineation issues obscure background elements that were clearly visible on the standard DVDs.
All things considered, this Blu-ray presentation of 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' certainly isn't flawless, but it's still a significant and compelling visual upgrade from the standard DVDs, and should please fans of the film.
The video may have left me with a few complaints, but the audio package doesn't miss a beat. 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' features a Lossless DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track that creates one of the most convincing and immersive soundfields I've experienced. Channel pans are extremely transparent and spatial accuracy is downright amazing -- just listen to the nimble acoustics at the beginning of the film anytime John and Jane are going about their daily lives at home. Even low-priority sounds like clinking silverware have a specific location in the soundfield. To open up the track's potential, skip to the minivan chase scene and close your eyes -- note the audible variations in the road surface, the soft crunch of the seats, and the distant horns of cars spinning out of control. Now head straight for the film's final showdown -- track the helicopter as it circles the perimeter of the soundfield, notice the shrapnel and debris scattering across the floor, and listen for the solid thumps of bullet hits.
Dialogue is crystal clear throughout, and is nicely distributed throughout the channels. Likewise, prioritization is dead on -- I never had to strain to catch any lines, even in the most chaotic scenes (and there are plenty). Dynamics are aggressive (but reliable) and the omnipresent LFE channel doesn't bow out of any scene. Bass booms are diverse and powerful, treble tones are steady and strong, and the music sneaks into the mix so naturally that it may as well be another clever quip of dialogue. Substantially better than the Dolby track on the standard DVD, even at its core bitrate (1.5 Mbps) this one easily deserves my five stars. This is definitely a go-to high-def audio mix.
This Blu-ray edition of 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' ports over all of the supplements from the first standard DVD released in 2005, but none of the additional special features that appeared on the 2006 Unrated Edition DVD. I can only imagine that at some point we'll be seeing a double dip from Fox that finally brings the content from that second DVD release to high definition as well.
While this Blu-ray edition of 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' doesn't include the Director's Cut (or any of the additional bonus materials that came with it on DVD), I still feel the need to recommend it. The flick is fun, the transfer is gorgeous, and the DTS HD MA track is sublime. Simply put, the video and audio quality on this disc blow the DVDs out of the water. I can't guarantee that you won't see an Unrated Edition Blu-ray sometime in the future, but I can confidently say fans will get their money's worth in the meantime.