Mr. & Mrs. Smith [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (30th December 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 mundanety 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.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, this high-definition widescreen transfer is presented in 1080p 24/fps and has been created using AVC MPEG-4 compression. Overall the image is a solid effort with sharp presentation; the clarity is excellent with fine detail especially in backgrounds but mostly in the foreground. You can pick up on minute details within the frame that adds a depth to the overall image. Colors are well rendered, crisp and smooth especially skin tones which appear natural although I noticed one or two instances where skin tones were a little orange. Black levels are solid but some noise is present, grain is seen mostly in dimly lit shots but isn't a distraction. I also noticed some edge-enhancement which rears its ugly head and takes a few marks off the final score for this other fine image.

Audio

Three audio tracks are presented on this release, an English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, as well as standard Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD track, and as expected was totally blown away by its range and depth. Dialogue is crystal clear without any evidence of distortion, the tracks surround channels are populated by ambient environmental, directional and special sound effects that range from subtle to aggressive. The quieter scenes display an ambiance that is immersive and the action scenes exhibit a dynamic mix of elements that sound natural and are delivered with a punch. Furthermore the film's score adds to the total impressiveness of this track. My recommendation is to crank this audio track up.

Optional subtitles are included in English, Cantonese, Korean and Spanish.

Extras

A small handful of extras are included on this release all of which have been ported over from the previous DVD release, we get three audio commentaries, a featurette some deleted scenes and trailers. Below is a closer look at these extras.

First up we have a feature-length audio commentary by the film's director Doug Liman and screenwriter Simon Kinberg. The track isn't exactly screen-specific but they try to remain on track as they discuss various aspects of the production from what attracted them to it, how the film was pitched and the difficulty in doing so because it had elements of a thriller, a romantic comedy, a drama, an action film ect. all rolled into one. The participants also cover issues relating to the cast, certain action sequences and how they were filmed, they reveal actual locations that substituted for New York or other more exotic locations as seen in the film. They provide a fair amount of insider knowledge here and the track is generally very good and certainly worth a listen for anyone that wants to know more about this film.

Next up is the second feature-length audio commentary this one is by producers Akiva Goldsman and Lucas Foster, there is a fair but of repetition here but there is also a fair bit of coverage the producers talk about that isn't spoken about in the previous track such as issue pertaining to budget, the use of stock footage enhanced for their film to minimize cost. They also gloss over the cast and shovel a fair bit of praise in their direction. They also let us in on some tricks used to sell certain shots as well as scenes that had to be re-shot, re-edited or re-tooled along with scenes in the original script that didn't make it into the film. Overall it's a decent track aside from the fact that there's quite a bit of info covered in the previous track.

The third feature-length audio commentary is with editor Michael Tronick, production designer Jeff Mann and visual effects supervisor Kevin Elam. Of all the three tracks this one is probably the one most people would skip, as it was a bit boring and really felt like a chore just to get through it. The participants talk about their involvement in the film and their contribution to it; they reveal bits and pieces of information but nothing earth-shattering. VFX supervisor Elam was probably the most interesting person to listen to as he revealed some cool trivia about various sequences. There are occasional silent gaps which drag out the track longer than required.

A short featurette follows, entitled "Making a Scene" this clip runs for 8 minutes 3 seconds and is a promotional piece created for the Fox Movie Channel. It briefly covers the synopsis of the film but for the most part focuses on one particular scene in the film. It's the chase scene after the couple has basically found each other out. The clip looks at the staging of the scene, the motivational drive that propels it, the action included in the scene and how they pulled it off, as well as the seamless VFX. It's brief but gets to the point and isn't diluted by a bunch of people talking about how cool everyone is. I, however would have preferred a well produced making of documentary than this, but at least something is better than nothing.

A collection of three deleted scenes are included, you can choose to view them individually or with the option of a 'play all' function. The scenes are more extended scenes than they are deleted scenes but they make a welcomed addition to this DVD none-the-less, the scenes included are:

- "John and Eddie in the Kitchen" which runs for 2 minutes 41 seconds, in this scene we get some additional dialogue of Eddie trying to help John "get over his hurt" plus puts a few ideas into his head about what his wife could be up to.
- "House Cleaning" runs for 3 minutes 37 seconds and we get extensions to both the scenes where Jane and John go back to the house after they discover each other's identity, in Jane's clip we see some additional moments of rummaging through the house and with John some minor additional dialogue between him and his neighbour that he uses as a human shield to enter the premises.
- "Homemade Store Shootout" runs for 2 minutes 25 seconds, here we get some additional gunplay on one floor of the shop and then John and Jane get back into the elevator.

Also on the disc are two of the film's original trailers, the first is theatrical trailer C which runs for 1 minute 53 seconds as well as the slightly longer theatrical trailer E which runs for 2 minutes 26 seconds.

Roding out the extras are bonus trailers for:

- "Entrapment" which runs for 1 minute 59 seconds.
- "The Sentinel" which runs for 2 minutes 1 second.
- "The Transporter" which runs for 1 minute 27 seconds.
- "Speed" which runs for 2 minutes 43 seconds.

Additionally this disc features "D-Box" enabled support; if you have a D-Box motion set-up this disc is compatible.

Overall

"Mr. & Mrs. Smith" is a smart and entertaining popcorn action film that includes brilliant performances with some great action sequences. Liman has crafted an enjoyable film that is over the top in its story and action but manages to keep our disbelief suspended by creating a tone that doesn't take itself too seriously and casting the leads perfectly.
The Fox Blu-ray includes a terrific image and audio transfer with a handful of extras that you're likely to go through rather quickly.

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

 


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