June 11, 2005

MOVIES: Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Doug Liman, 2005)

What a terrific surprise this was! Sharp, witty dialogue; exciting action scenes; and a story that's about something more than just Blowing Stuff Up Real Good. It's a Hollywood rarity -- an action movie for grownups.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (the celebrity press has taken to calling them "Brangelina," which sounds like some awful high-fiber citrus drink) play John and Jane Smith, whose marriage of five (or six) years is starting to go a bit stale. They go off to work each day, take occasional business trips out of town, and stare silently across the dinner table at one another.

What neither knows about the other is that they are both professional assassins, working for different organizations (Government? Private? We never really know anything other than that they are competitors). And when their organizations send the two of them to kill the same target, they not only learn each other's secret, but they're now assigned to kill each other.

The movie could be a bit more subtle, I suppose; the central metaphor of marriage as a minefield of dangerous secrets is pounded home a bit too heavily, but everything else works so well that this is a minor flaw.

The action scenes are great, with a fabulous freeway chase scene and a great Pitt-Jolie brawl (and what fun to see a movie that's not too PC to let Jolie be an equal partner in that scene, pounding and getting pounded just as much as Pitt). The final battle plays out in an IKEA-type store, against the fake scenes of suburban domestic bliss that nicely parallel the fake marriage that John and Jane have lived in for so long.

Pitt and Jolie both look fabulous here, and they sizzle as a couple. Jolie is riveting (and it takes a special woman indeed to draw my attention away from Brad Pitt), and she's very funny, especially in non-verbal moments; watch her facial expressions when she's unexpectedly handed a baby at a neighborhood cocktail party.

This one's a winner. You should go.

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