Gemini Man is a high tech marvel with a low IQ script. Thankfully the cutting edge special effects, superb action scenes, and engaging lead performances make up for the inane plot. Ang Lee, the Oscar winning director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Life of Pi, once again pushes filmmaking technology forward. His results here are mixed, but the effort is appreciated. Gemini Man has jaw-dropping moments despite an obvious and predictable narrative.
Will Smith stars as Henry Brogan, the deadliest assassin in the Defense Intelligence Agency. His career as a covert operative is unmatched. Brogan decides to retire after getting conflicting information about his last hit. He’s had enough after decades of murder, but the DIA refuses to cut a loose thread. Brogan escapes a hit team with a fellow agent (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) assigned to surveil him.
On the run with help from an old friend (Benedict Wong), Brogan is attacked by a lone assassin with incredible skills. He’s stunned by the tenacity and abilities of the mysterious killer. A brief glimpse through a rifle scope offers a terrifying reveal. Brogan is being pursued by a younger, deadlier version of himself.
Let’s start with the bells and whistles. Ang Lee shot Gemini Man digitally with modified 4K 3D cameras at a high frame rate (hfr) of 120 frames per second (fps). Most films are shot and seen at 24 fps, so Gemini Man looks hyper-realistic. Only 14 theaters in the United States have the capability to project the film at that speed, so pretty much the entire viewing audience will not have that experience. Don’t feel left out. I’ve found the 120 fps to be jarring and unnatural. At 24 fps in stereoscopic 3D, Gemini Man looks amazing; spectacularly vivid. Coupled with the computer generated technology used to create the clone performance, the film is truly groundbreaking to see.
Where Gemini Man falls flat is the banality of the story. Originally written by Darren Lemke in 1997, the version we’re seeing was created by David Benioff (Game of Thrones) and Hollywood’s king of rewrites, Billy Ray (Captain Phillips). They needed to spice up the punch from the standard sci-fi thriller tropes. Phenomenal action scenes are dulled by a total lack of surprises. Gemini Man never deviates from the expected. A lot of time, energy, and expertise was spent on the technological aspects. Ang Lee, who I consider to be an all-time great director, needed to spread that wealth to the script.
Will Smith continues to deliver the action goods. An actor with a weak screen presence could not have pulled off the duality of this role. Smith is completely believable as the aging ass-kicker and young buck clone who’s sent to replace him. Granted, the “Junior” character is CGI composited on a stand-in (Victor Hugo), but Smith’s mannerisms were motion captured to create the performance. He and co-star Mary Elizabeth Winstead infuse charisma to what are essentially rote characters on the page.
Gemini Man has enough eye candy and action to make up for its faults. Ang Lee elevates the medium every time he gets behind the camera. Gemini Man dares to be cinematically bold. It doesn’t reach every lofty goal, but is a visual joyride worth taking. Sci-fi and action fans will certainly be entertained. Gemini Man is a production of Skydance Media, Jerry Bruckheimer, Fosun Pictures, and Alibaba Pictures, with distribution from Paramount.
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