Mr and Mrs Smith
Donald Glover’s adaptation of the Mr and Mrs Smith franchise is a very welcome return to the spy romance thriller made famous by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the 2005 Doug Liman film. Unlike the feature, which showcases extremely skilled and high-level spy operatives who have been married for years, the Prime Video series introduces two individuals very new to the job, and very new to each other. Both are hired to partner up and do a series of missions as a married couple, which they ungracefully fumble their way through, leading to shenanigans that include an exploding cake and acting like mating dogs. With both being rookies in the field, they often find themselves miscommunicating and even failing at the missions.
Because this version focuses on two people who are total strangers to each other, the series explores a different cliché to that of Liman’s lovers and enemies take on the Smiths: the fake dating trope, commonly seen in films like The Wedding Date, Just Go With It, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Proposal, amongst other popular titles. One of the most prominent characteristics within this type of storyline is setting boundaries – things like “no sex” or “don’t fall in love”. These are cardinal rules that John (Glover) and Jane (Maya Erskine) unceremoniously break as their partnership begins to stir unexpected feelings of like and lust between the two. It’s also a trope that benefits the spy comedy aspect of the series as references and double meanings occur when the two talk openly about their “marriage”.
Because their start is very quick and delicate, as John and Jane’s relationship grows, their different perspectives and ways of balancing work and personal life create a rift between them. John is compassionate and holds a lot of empathy while Jane is straightforward, headstrong and extremely logical. These differences catalyse small tiffs and disagreements that bleed into their spy work, with John going beyond the specifications of the mission to do the right thing and Jane having to save him from the fallout. Still, at the end of the day, their opposing views do balance each other out. It also helps that some of the missions they undertake are reflective of their struggles, whether it be within their relationship or problems outside of it.
Both actors are excellent; Glover always impresses with his arsenal of varying facial expressions and Erskine’s deadpan and stoic delivery pairs well with the initial awkwardness of their partnership. As a romantic couple, their chemistry is quite flat compared to that of the film. But it’s easy to buy into the two because the script forces them into missions and situations where they must confront their deepening feelings for each other. Production-wise, for a spy and action series, the shots are long and lingering, very unlike the fast-paced editing and camera work one would typically expect from this genre. This allows scenes to be more strategic, slow and calculated, enhanced by the soundtrack’s steady rhythm.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith has a lot of promise and potential. It’s an exciting premise and quite different from the Smiths that came before: it’s interesting to see the two work together as opposed to against each other. This pilot season may just be laying the groundwork for something incredible in the near future.
Mr and Mrs Smith is released on Prime Video on 2nd February 2024.
Watch the trailer for Mr and Mrs Smith here: