Amazon’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith review: A layered and thorny spy thriller

While Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s inability to stop smoldering at each other was the reason most people enjoyed watching the original Mr and Mrs Smiththe film’s story of a married couple who realized they were both hiding secret lives as spies was an intriguing example of how well the romcom and action genres could complement each other.

The film only spent a little time developing its vision of tense domestic bliss before focusing more on blowing things up. But in Smith’s relationship, with all its explosive twists, you could see the film putting forward some interesting ideas about how marriage can change people and the way we all end up wearing one disguise or another, even in our most intimate relationships.

There are plenty of major differences between the 2006 film and Amazon’s new one Mr and Mrs Smith series from executive producers Francesca Sloane and Donald Glover that viewers might initially have trouble distinguishing the line between them. But it’s thanks to the stylistic and narrative updates that Amazon’s series is able to take those germ ideas from the original film and cultivate them into a compelling story that works surprisingly well, save for a few rough spots.

Instead of introducing us to the lives of John (Glover) and Jane (Maya Erskine) Smith years after their wedding, as in the film, the new Mr and Mrs Smith changes things up by introducing the eponymous couple shortly after they start working for a spy agency known simply as The Company. As two of The Company’s most promising new recruits, both John – a confident mama’s boy who can’t lose an argument – ​​and Jane – a cat lover with an aversion to open-mouthed chewers – are confident they’re ready to take on high-stakes assignments. risk, where targets are eliminated once the series begins.

But as much as The Company provides its agents with the means and opportunities to kill people for large sums of money, the company is careful about handing out more information than it needs. And because John and Jane sign up under the assumption that they will complete their assignments individually, the duo is unsure what to make of their situation as their supervisor – an invisible presence whose secure text messages almost always open with “Hihi” – informs the pair that they are tasked to work together as partners in the field.

Just like the movie, the new one Mr and Mrs Smith defines its leads by contrasting their differences long before it properly explores what really makes John and Jane tick. This John is still a charmer who charms his way through missions, while Jane, the more clinical of the pair, prefers to play through hers. But for all its immediately obvious similarities to the film, such as Amazon’s Mr and Mrs Smith reworks the Smith’s personal and professional lives, turning his story into a much more complicated and thoughtful reflection on what it means to be a married couple.

Although the show’s premiere – directed by Glover’s longtime collaborator Hiro Murai – is a tightly shot origin story that presents the eponymous couple as the centerpiece of a classic spy thriller, Mr and Mrs SmithThe eight-episode first season quickly shows how the story always works through some ideas about the material realities of being in a committed relationship.

On some level, the series works as a kind of morbid rom-com about a pair of murderous bachelors who unexpectedly meet their matches in the last place they would ever have considered looking for romance. On the other hand, it is more of a Johannes Wick-esque action-fantasy set in a world filled with a surprising number of professional assassins hiding in plain sight in glamorous locations around the world while pretending to be regular people. But because John and Jane have to seriously dedicate themselves to their cover story, Mr and Mrs Smith also often feels like a semi-serious drama about an interracial couple unsteadily figuring out who they are as a unit, what they mean to each other, and how they are perceived by the outside world.

Rather than leaning into the idea that spies must repeatedly adopt and shed new identities, the way most people change outfits, Mr and Mrs Smith tries to illustrate the complexity of his characters by deftly switching between the diverse genres. It’s when the series takes those difficult pivots, from comedy to action to drama and then back again, that you understand why this story about the Mr and Mrs Smith The story is built around two actors best known for their ability to make you laugh.

The deeper you delve into the series, the more it becomes clear how much energy Sloane, Glover and other writers like Stephen Glover, Yvonne Hana Yi and Adamma and Adanne Ebo put into making the 2006 film – which was largely a product of his time – and shaping its essential elements into a story aimed at a modern audience. Erskine’s Jane is every bit the cool, calculated overachiever that her cinematic counterpart was, and things like John’s insecurities about being outdone on missions and his fondness for the trappings of married life are lifted straight from the film.

But by playing John and Jane more subtly and always keeping their respective personality traits clearly in mind, Glover and Erskine are able to make these characters their own. And because the series as a whole walks the line so well between outright remake and drastic reinvention, it has a very interesting way of playing, almost like one chapter in a larger anthology about the ways all relationships, but especially marriages, can feel as a battle if the people involved are not exactly on the same page.

Just like the relationship between John and Jane, Mr and Mrs Smith has its fair share of hiccups. These tend to flare up in the season’s more complex, layered episodes, which simultaneously attempt to clarify and highlight the severity of the very real tensions that can develop between romantic partners from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.

It’s not always clear who the show is speaking to when it describes the thorniness of how things like casual racism and sexism play into people’s interpersonal social dynamics. And in moments where John and Jane are forced to talk about how those things make them feel, the show sometimes veers into territory so dark that it almost (but not quite) feels out of place.

But these types of beats are relatively rare, and what little air they suck from the room is more than made up for Mr and Mrs Smith‘s commitment to delighting you with the performances of its small but highly effective cast of guest stars like Parker Posey, Michaela Coel and Ron Perlman.

Watching Mr and Mrs Smith‘s first season, you can get an idea of ​​how expensive the series must have been to produce, which, combined with the finality of the finale, makes it feel like it could be more of a one-shot deal. then the beginning of something that lasts. It’s rare for a streaming series to end on that note, and even rarer for it to feel as satisfying as it does here, but that’s part of what makes it so Mr and Mrs Smith it feels like a success, even if the goal is a little off.

Mr and Mrs Smith Also stars Alexander Skarsgård, John Turturro, Eiza González, Sharon Horgan and Paul Dano. All eight episodes of the show’s first season dropped on Amazon Prime on February 2.

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