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Mr & Mrs Smith, review: a fresh, witty remake that just lacks Brangelina's sexual chemistry

A rare remake that improves on the original: Donald Glover and Maya Erskine in Mr & Mrs Smith
A rare remake that improves on the original: Donald Glover and Maya Erskine in Mr & Mrs Smith - David Lee/Amazon Prime Video

Mr & Mrs Smith was a middling Hollywood spy caper remembered chiefly because Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie fell for each other while making it. And we know how well that turned out. Ignoring the bad vibes, Amazon Prime Video has remade it as an eight-part series.

The results feel surprisingly fresh, because show creators Francesca Sloane and Donald Glover have eschewed the easy option – a dumb action thriller – in favour of something wittier and more thoughtful. It has a low-key, slightly 1970s aesthetic, which is where the casting of Glover comes in handy because I can’t think of many other actors who would look good in flares. He can also act, which is a major improvement on the film (Brad Pitt can’t act, and that is a hill I will die on).

Glover and Maya Erskine (a role originally pencilled in for Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who was also onboard as co-writer, but dropped out due to “artistic differences”) play spies hired by a mysterious agency. They are given the code names John and Jane Smith, told to pose as a married couple and given a beautifully appointed New York brownstone as a home.

Glover and Erskine take on the roles originally portrayed by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
Glover and Erskine take on the roles originally portrayed by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie - David Lee/Amazon Prime Video

They are sent out on high-risk missions with only the briefest of instructions, having to play it by ear when they get there. This generally involves having to fight or shoot their way out of dangerous situations in ski resorts, jungles and swanky addresses. One takes them to a luxury hotel in the Dolomites to stake out a wealthy executive played by Sharon Horgan. The guest stars are high quality, including John Turturro, Michaela Coel and Ron Perlman.

While all this high-octane spy stuff is going on, the couple are dealing with the mundanity of married life: dividing up the household chores, complaining that one of them spends too much time on the phone to their mother. At first, John finds it endearing that Jane talks with her mouth full, and when she says, “You’re so annoying,” she’s being playful. A few episodes down the line, and they want to kill each other.

He is a contented soul who likes to do yoga; she is spiky and estranged from everyone in her life. The relationship switches from platonic to romantic early on. This is where things fall down a bit, because Glover and Erskine have zero sexual chemistry. Or maybe that’s deliberate, because they’re in an arranged marriage and are just getting it on for the sake of it. Whatever, they’re always interesting to watch and both have great comic timing. Mr & Mrs Smith is that rare thing: a remake that improves on the original.


All episodes of Mr & Mrs Smith are on Amazon Prime Video from Friday 2 February