“Gemini Man” stars Will Smith, Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Benedict Wong. Released on October 11, 2019, the film is about an assassin who fights a younger version of himself.
The film is directed by Ang Lee, who also directed films such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Hulk”, “Brokeback Mountain”, and “Life of Pi”. A lot of people usually face their own pasts in order to grow, but in some cases, they face their past selves in order to survive. Since 2012, director Ang Lee has been utilizing 3-D technology to immerse the audience into his cinematic art, starting with the film adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel, “Life of Pi”. He even took his art of cinematic experiences to the next level by using the high frame rate of 120 frames per second for the war drama, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”. While the former received critical praise and went on to win four Oscars at the 85th Academy Awards, including Best Visual Effects, the latter earned mixed reviews and was a box office failure, proving that lightning doesn’t strike twice. This year, Ang Lee is once again utilizing this type of technology for something that’s a bit more action-packed. I’m one of the group of people who appreciate Lee’s use of 3-D and cinematic technology to enhance his storytelling. I thought “Life of Pi” was visually gorgeous and deeply engaging. As for “Billy Lynn”, all I could really say about it is that it looked nice, cinematography-wise, but that’s really about it. So now we have the latest film from Ang Lee that showcases a thrilling matchup between Will Smith and his younger “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” self in state-of-the-art high frame rate 3-D. The film had been in development for at least two decades with numerous directors and actors signing on and signing off time after time leading up to Lee and Smith confirming to tackle the project for Paramount and Skydance Media. Now that it finally made its way to the screen, does it live up to its expectations? Let’s find out.
The story follows Henry Brogan (Smith), an aging assassin who decided to retire from his career. He later finds out that his target from his last mission was innocent, leading him to realize that his former agency is deceiving him. What’s even worse is that he’s targeted by Clay Varris (Owen), the head of a top-secret black ops unit who created a younger version of Henry to eliminate him. With his life on the line, Henry will have to use his skills once more in order to survive. The premise of having a character face off against a younger version of one’s self isn’t entirely new as it has been represented in other types of media before “Gemini Man”, such as Rian Johnson’s sci-fi thriller, “Looper”, so you might find yourself stuck in a “been there, done that” scenario while watching this film. Despite that, however, it did its part in providing an entertaining action thriller that literally puts two Will Smiths against one another. Like his last two films, Ang Lee puts his cinematic tools to good use as he envisioned each and every scene with absolute care and sharp detail, especially the action scenes. Seeing how extremely well they were shot without the cheap editing that most action films rely on made me realize that Ang Lee and “John Wick” director Chad Stahelski should make an action film together. Just imagine the possibilities with these two behind the camera. Another main selling point for the film is Will Smith himself. He pulled double duty with flawless results as both Henry and Junior, a younger version of Henry. It’s far from Oscar-worthy, but his performance proves that he still has some charm left in him when it comes to the action genre. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was also decent in her role as Danny Zakarweski, another former agent who is also targeted by the agency. I also thought that Benedict Wong was surprisingly enjoyable as Baron, Henry’s colleague. I’m not kidding, he had a couple of moments that I thought were actually more humorous than Smith's moments. As for Clive Owen as Clay, his performance was pretty tolerable despite his character being a mediocre villain. The film’s visuals were quite convincing, especially the de-aging effect for Smith’s character Junior, which was completely spot on from top to bottom. It just goes to show that the process of this type of technology is still going strong, which means we could be seeing more of this in other films in the future. As for its flaws, the film did suffer a bit from its by-the-numbers screenplay. “Gemini Man” deals with the aspect of cloning someone as well as facing the demons of one’s past. The effort that was put into displaying these types of themes were almost completely overshadowed by its predictable and simplistic script, but that doesn’t mean the story didn’t catch my interest. Yes, the story doesn’t offer anything new to the genre, but it does deliver on the entertainment value and to me, that’s all that matters. The film also had some pacing issues during a couple of scenes. Nothing too drastic or anything like that. Just don’t expect it to be as fast-paced as a Michael Bay film.
Overall, “Gemini Man” isn’t quite as deep as its themes, but it’s an entertaining and well-shot action thriller that represents Ang Lee’s cinematic style. With a suitable cast, sharp cinematography, solid visuals, and some engaging action sequences, the film is a minor improvement over “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”. However, it’s nowhere near as groundbreaking as “Life of Pi”. I can see that it’s not going to be beloved by everybody when it comes to its subpar screenplay, but I don’t think it’s as disappointing as most people are saying it was. It’s one of those movies that I wouldn’t mind watching again just for the sake of being entertained. I’m still serious about Ang Lee and Chad Stahelski doing a movie together, by the way.