Mr. & Mrs. Smith
R3 - Hong Kong - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (18th April 2007).
The Film

"Mr. & Mrs. Smith" almost never happened, several times. The film has taken 5 years to get off the ground, numerous writers were brought in for many rewrites of the script (over 50 different versions of the script had been written), several members of the cast dropped in and out of the production and even director Doug Liman originally said 'no' to doing this film. Eventually after 5 years of trying the pieces eventually began to fit for the producers and the screenwriter. Liman came on board just as Brad Pitt had and eventually a leading lady was found when Nicole Kidman, who was originally cast left the project to pursue another role with every boy's wet-dream of a girl Angelina Jolie. "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" was finally on track and ready to go in front of cameras.
"Mr. & Mrs. Smith" tells the story of John and Jane Smith played by Pitt and Jolie. The Smiths are a couple whose marriage has seen better days, their days consists of suburban mundanity and a lackluster sex life. The only thing keeping these two going are their lives outside of their marriage; you see the Smiths are assassins that work for competing agencies. When one day both of them discover their secrets and a war between husband and wife ensues, as they are ordered to take each other out. But that is easier said than done, when their feelings for each other are re-ignited amidst their attempts to knock the other off.
This film works on many levels the fist of which is its script, for a popcorn action film the script demonstrates some intelligent writing that doesn't for one moment pander to the audience or take them for granted, as some action films seem to. This film also has characters that many people can relate to, especially since they both have flaws demonstrated by their struggling relationship. It's these character moments they share at home and in therapy that makes them seem real and add a three-dimensional quality. The filmmakers allowed time for us to get to know them and enter their world and as a result let the action develop naturally as the film progresses. Most action films would start the film with a big set piece rather than a therapy session with husband and wife. It's certainly unconventional but it works and sets up the film in an awkwardly entertaining way.
Another key to this film's success are the two mega-star leads, Pitt and Jolie's chemistry jumps off the screen. It's no surprise that these two eventually fell for one another, but that's a story for all the tabloids and not here. On the page these characters aren't really special by any great means, but these two light up the screen with energy that breaths life into them and more importantly is exciting and entertaining to watch. The support cast is equally impressive, Vince Vaughn especially, bringing his dry motor-mouth wit to this film created a memorable character that steals scenes and has some of the funniest lines in the film.
The action, however is the cherry on the cake, Liman has learned a lot from doing "The Bourne Identity" (2002) in just a few short years this independent filmmaker responsible for "Swingers" (1996) and "Go" (1999) a film that's been referred to as "the teen Pulp Fiction" has graduated to big budget action directing and has filled the screen with exciting, visually interesting and over the top sequences that manages to maintain a level humor which reminds the audience not to take things so seriously. While there was a couple of instances that made me say 'yeah right' and took things a bit far, such as the zip-wire escape at Jane's HQ and some parts of the final shootout, however for the most part it was fun to watch and once you check your brain at the door you'll have an even better time.
The film may be a bunch of Hollywood mumbo-jumbo, let's face it there's nothing particularly amazing about the plot, but bottom line is that this film has a pulse. You'll be entertained and it'll put a smile on your face. If a film can do that then it's worth seeing in my book.
This Unrated "Director Edition" features some additional scene extensions and a few omissions from the theatrical edit that was previously released on DVD, most notably the film's domestic moments at the start are slightly extended as is the final dance of death showdown in the department store. Overall this new edit improves on the existing film.

Video

Presented in a ratio of 2.35:1 this anamorphic widescreen image is a terrific effort presenting the film cleanly and sharply with fine detail and depth. Colors are incredibly vivid and bold with deep blacks and consistent shadow detail especially in nighttime interior scenes. I found no evidence of compression problems, no edge-enhancement, and certainly no dirt or scratches. For a recent film such as this only perfection is acceptable and that's what we get here, this transfer is simply beautiful.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included on this Unrated release, an English DTS 5.1 track, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track as well as a Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS track. As far as DTS tracks go this one is reference quality all the way, dialogue is clean and distortion free but it's the gun fire and explosions that make this track so much fun. It's active with a dynamic mix that displays incredible range, the aggressive aspects kick in many times during all the action scenes with a prominent and effect bass track that will shake your woofer so much you'll swear you were witnessing an earthquake. The softer more ambient moments are subtle and make effective use of the space, it all sounds natural and nothing seems out of place. Furthermore the music also takes hold of the track at times and heightens the experience and envelopes the viewer in the action. This track does just about everything right.
Optional subtitles are also included in English, Korean, Korean for the hearing impaired, Cantonese, Mandarin, Thai, Thai for the hearing impaired and Tagalog.

Extras

DISC ONE:

The only extra on this disc is an all new feature-length audio commentary by the film's director Doug Liman. This isn't the first time Liman has recorded a commentary for this film but he always seems to find new things to talk about, if you own the previous DVD edition of this film and listened to the commentary tracks then you shouldn't miss this one. Liman takes us through the this "Director's Cut" talking about the differences between it and the previous edit, the studio influence and compromises that had to be made simply because he was making a big budget summer movie, this included having to shoot scenes that weren't scripted but that the studio encouraged for various reasons (mostly these included scenes that explained plot elements, fearing the audience wouldn't 'get' parts of the film). He sheds light on the changes and the evolution of the script and what was essentially shot versus what concepts were left behind. Some of the most interesting elements of this track have to do with the overall production differences and challenges the director faced between this film and his previous, "The Bourne Identity" (2002). Other areas he covers is the difficulty of shooting in locations with two of the world's biggest stars, in fact a lot of the film had to be shot on back lots and sets and also on the reluctance of the studio to test the movie and hold preview screenings because of the heat which was generate in the media by its two stars. Liman manages to comment on almost every scene as he provides invaluable information about the production, this track is an excellent example of how to conduct an audio commentary and makes for the perfect accompaniment to this film.

DISC TWO:

The majority of the supplements is housed on this second disc and is split into three main sections, the first entitled "Confidential Files", the second entitled "Doug's Film School" and finally the third section entitled "Galleries".

Confidential Files

First up in this section are a series of deleted scenes and an alternate ending. They can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' feature. The scenes included are:

- "Bogota" which runs for 53 seconds, this is extended sequence with John and Jane in Bogota getting to know each other.
- "Perfect Timing" runs for 1 minute 39 seconds, this is an extended scene in which John and Jane discover each other's secrets.
- "Dried Flower" runs for 28 seconds, Jane discovers a dried flower that John gave her pressed inside a book.
- "Surveillance" runs for 1 minute 22 seconds, John's agency spies on the couple as they return home to fight it out.
- "Here's Johnny" runs for 6 seconds, John rushes towards the door with an ax.
- "The Assassins Arrive" runs for 53 seconds, Assassins arrive at the Smith house to take them out.
- "Finding a Ride Version A" runs for 56 seconds, John and Jane steal a van, John insists on driving.
- "Finding a Ride Version B" runs for 58 seconds, they steal a car instead of a van this alternate version of the scene.
- "Chinese Laundry" runs for 50 seconds, John picks up some artillery from a dry cleaner.
- "Send in the Frog" runs for 1 minute 13 seconds, the agency bosses send in an elite French assassin to take out John and Jane at the department store shootout.
- "It's all about the Benjamin" runs for 1 minute 6 seconds, Ben calls for an extraction.
- "Alternate Ending" runs for 1 minute 46 seconds, John and Jane on vacation in Italy with their baby daughter.

Next up is another alternate ending which is presented as a screenplay excerpt because it wasn't shot. This is 4 pages of text and in the scene John and Jane blow up a boat killing an arms dealer just after they've had dinner with him.

Next up in this section is a gag reel that runs for 3 minutes 42 seconds and includes the usually stuff: missed cues, laughing in the middle of a take, forgetting lines, flubbing lines etc.

Also included is "Domestic Violence: Shooting Mr. And Mrs. Smith" a documentary that runs for 33 minutes 3 seconds, this in-depth and excellently produced piece takes us through the entire production process. Starting with the idea for the film, the genesis of the script and pitching it to the various studios (all of which originally passed on the film), to finally getting it green lit and making the film. Throughout the process the script was reworked until various influential people came on board including the director and the cast. We also get to look at the complex production as Liman directs the cast in various key scenes from the film. This is not you're average EPK fluff piece this is a wholly in-depth behind-the-scenes look that provides the viewer with a serious look at the filmmaking process as if you're actually on set. For film fans this is a hugely interesting piece as we see first hand director Liman go through the motions of shooting a film as it really gets into the mind of the filmmaker. This is valuable stuff and worth a more than just a single look.

Doug's Film School

Aside from the informative and insightful documentary there is an entire section where Liman shows us the versatility of the film medium and how different choices can effect a scene and it's tone. This section should be considered a resource for budding filmmakers.

First up we have "Framing Device" a section that includes an introduction by Liman that runs for 2 minutes 2 seconds, plus a scene that runs for 3 minutes 26 seconds. The studio was concerned about how the domestic scenes weren't fun to watch and how the studio paid for a narrator for those scenes. However score was used to lighten the mood of the scenes and the narrator sequence was dropped, in this clip you can watch the scene where Adam Brody picks up a hot girl in a bar by telling her the story of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith".

Next is "Mother and Father" In this section we get to see two different scenes with two different actors cast as Mother and Father, the agency bosses where John and Jane work respectively. The first is "Terrence Stamp and Jacqueline Bisset" which runs for 4 minutes 15 seconds in these unused cut-away scene. The second is "Keith David and Angela Bassett which runs for 5 minutes 53 seconds which is basically alternate cut-away scenes with the different actors, these two eventually played the roles in the film, but the scenes with them were drastically cut.

Next is "Snowy Ravine" this section includes 4 sequences & screenplay excerpts. It kicks off with an introduction by Liman that runs for 2 minutes 47 seconds, in thisd clip he explains that this sequence was originally scripted but proved far too expensive to realize so they changed it to what eventually because the desert sequence where John fires the rocket launcher at Jane. In this section we get to see the "Ravine Sequence" which runs for 4 minutes 46 seconds this shows what was shot before the scene was dropped edited with some pre-viz so we can get an idea of what the scene would have been like. Also we get a "Shooting the Ravine Sequence" which runs for 3 minutes 27 seconds and is a behind-the-scenes featurette of the cast and crew filming a hand-to-hand combat scene between John and Jane that was scripted for that aborted sequence. Also included is a "Shooting the Desert Fight" a featurette which runs for 8 minutes 36 seconds, this is a look at shooting the desert scene which replaced the ravine in the final film. Finally screenplay excerpts are included for the "Snowy Ravine" scene which includes 22 pages of script and for the "Desert Fight" scene which includes 14 pages.

Following that is the "Hood Jump" section that includes an animatic as well a screenplay excerpt. Like the previous parts to this film school we have an introduction by Liman which runs for 2 minutes 38 seconds in this clip he talks about how this scene was storyboarded with the use of previsualization techniques, this pre-viz helped sell the scene to the studio because the scene was not originally scheduled. Included in this section is the original animatic which runs for 1 minute 8 seconds as well as a 7 page screenplay excerpt of the actual scene as it appear in the script.

"Underground Garage" is next and also includes an introduction by Liman which runs for 1 minute 53 seconds, in this intro the director talks about this scene where John and Jane talk about splitting up in a parking garage. The scene didn't work and the location was changed to the sewer grate right before they enter the department store at the end. Included is the original scene which runs for 2 minutes 4 seconds before it was changed as well as 4 page screenplay excerpt which shows the scene as it appeared in the script.

"Homemade" features an introduction which runs for 1 minute 55 seconds and 4 sequences which includes a screenplay excerpt. In the intro Liman comments about the different approach they had setting up the finale of the film as we can get a look at a scene which runs for 4 minutes 57 seconds that sets up the ending during the day at the department store. Included is a storyboard sequence #1 which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds and is an animated sequence of the same scene but taking place at night in an empty store. Also included is storyboard sequence #2 which runs for 2 minutes 24 seconds and is an alternate version of the scene with the split up dialogue at the start setting up the scene. Finally there are 33 pages from the script in the screenplay excerpt section.

A collection of 7 previsualizations are also included, these are rough mock-up animated storyboard sequences of some key scenes from the film, these were used so that the cast and crew had an idea of what the scene would eventually look like once put together. They were also used to help convince the studio to green light certain sequences. The 7 clips included are for:

- "Meeting In Bogota" which runs for 52 seconds.
- "Roof Bag Trick" which runs for 12 seconds.
- "Poker Game" which runs for 12 seconds.
- "Snowy Ravine" which runs for 2 minutes 46 seconds.
- "Elevator Shaft" which runs for 1 minute 11 seconds.
- "House Collapse" which runs for 1 minute 6 seconds.
- "Mini-Van Chase" which runs for 1 minute 26 seconds.

Galleries

A series of three still galleries is included in this section:

- "Director Doug Liman's Album" includes a collection of 79 still images taken during the production.
- "Producer Lucas Foster's Album" which includes 67 still images taken during the production of the film.
- "Mr. & Mrs. Smith Crew Photo Album" which includes 144 still images of the cast and crew on set during the production of the film.

Rounding out the extras is a 2-panel booklet which features some production notes.

Packaging

This DVD is packaged in an amaray case that is housed in a cardboard slip-cover.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A+

 


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