The remake of the 2005 action comedy, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, leans more towards the complexities of marriage between the characters played by Donald Glover and Maya Erskine
Story: Two strangers are recruited by a top-secret spy agency for dangerous covert missions, and they are given new identities as a married couple. As they embark on this new life, they must find the right balance between marriage and their dangerous line of work.
Review: The eponymous 2005 film starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is in many ways a conventional action comedy that is confined within the boundaries of popular tropes from the genre. However, the new Amazon Prime Video original series created by Francesca Sloane and lead star Donald Glover offers a more nuanced exploration of the relationship between the Smiths, John and Jane. The pilot episode perfectly captures the essence of the series – a slow-burn romantic drama wrapped in a spy thriller. Donald Glover and Maya Erskine are outstanding as the titular characters as they come to terms with their job and living together as a married couple. The measured build-up to the climax of their first mission is paced intricately with great subtlety. The pilot is almost faultless in how it sets the tone for the series. However, as the plot progresses over each episode, a few of the TV show’s flaws become a little too obvious to ignore.
The overall aesthetic of the series has borrowed elements from Woody Allen films. The scenes are heavy on dialogue with minimal background music, and the screenplay relies on the environment to flesh out the mood and tone of the story. The technical aspects of the film, from sound to cinematography are impeccable. The incredible chemistry between the lead stars further elevates the narrative, and the grounded storytelling is a far cry from the original film. The focus is firmly on the relationship between John (Glover) and Jane (Erskine). While the scenes involving their budding romance and eventual complications involved in being a married couple are well-executed, the espionage aspect of the film is riddled with plot holes. Some of these inconsistencies stick out like a sore thumb to the extent that the story becomes far too predictable at times.
The most obvious, if not unforgivable, drawback is the fact that neither John nor Jane has a perfect cover story to narrate if a neighbour or a therapist were to enquire about their employment. One would assume that having a convincing cover identity would be one of the most pertinent aspects of being spies embedded in an affluent neighbourhood. It is also perplexing that the Smiths have, ironically, failed to master the art of being discrete during their missions. While it is perfectly acceptable to showcase the Smiths learning their craft through their mistakes, the naiveties they exhibit can be identified two steps in advance by anyone who is well-versed in espionage thrillers. Even the parts where the series excels, such as the complexities of relationships, become too ‘relatable’ and oversaturated. Therefore, the only aspect of the story that offers a sense of ‘escapist fiction’ is the fact that it is an espionage thriller. Unfortunately, it is also the aspect where the series falters.
Community star Donald Glover, also popularly known as the singer Childish Gambino, is excellent as John Smith, as is Maya Erskine, who recently played the lead in the outstanding animated series Blue Eye Samurai. The series features excellent performances from its renowned guest stars as well – such as Wagner Moura (Narcos), Michaela Coel (Black Mirror), John Turturro (The Batman), Paul Dano (The Batman, There Will be Blood), Alexander Skarsgård (The Northman), Eiza González (Baby Driver), and Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy) among others. While these guest stars certainly add depth to the storytelling, Paul Dano’s remarkable talents as one of the greatest actors of this generation have been wasted in his role as the ‘nosy neighbour’.
Verdict: The Mr. & Mrs. Smith remake is a unique reinterpretation of the original film. It leans more towards the complexities of marriage instead of pulsating action. While the grounded exploration of love, relationships, and work-life balance are perfectly captured across the narrative, the spy thriller aspect leaves a lot to be desired. The finale ends on a cliffhanger, but it remains to be seen if the showrunners are teasing a second season or if it is a creative choice to leave the ending ambiguous.