Directed By Ang Lee
Starring – Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen
The Plot – A retiring assassin, Henry Brogan (Smith), finds himself pursued by a mysterious killer (Also Smith) that can predict his every move. Discovering that he’s being hunted by a younger clone of himself, Henry needs to find out why he’s being targeted and who the creator is.
Rated PG-13 for violence and action throughout, and brief strong adult language
– Jaw-dropping special effects. Obviously the major gimmick for the movie is the value of two Will Smith’s for the price of one, and while this gimmick within cinema is certainly nothing fresh or ground-breaking, the effects used to realize this perk are done with an air of believability and de-aging that really makes audiences do a double take quite frequently. The movements in fighting are crisp, the facial resonation shows no chips in the armor of continuity, and the camera work done by Lee doesn’t require gimmick shots, like personal vantage points, to hide its obviousness. There are plenty of scenes with both sides of Smith in frame, providing plenty of fuel for the conflictual fire that burns stronger the longer the movie progresses.
– Cinematography choices. Lee adopted the 120 frame rate during the less-than stellar “Billy Lee’s Halftime Show”, and has brought it along to “Gemini Man”, perfecting it in a way that adds big stakes and geographical flare to the action genre. Considering most movies are shot on a 24 frames per second rate, the expansion of focus allows something to constantly transpire in the background, all the while our main cast is conversing in the foreground. It gives the scenes an air of authenticity that within the many people and places revolving around our story, and conjures up no shortage of breathtakingly globe-trotting scenery to chew on along the way. In addition to this, the decision to film everything with 3D cameras is one that pays off immensely for the eye-popping detail of people and objects flying across the lens in real time. This is one of those rare cases where seeing a movie in 3D will offer an immersive quality to what’s transpiring, instilling a justification on this element alone to pay a few extra bucks to see it on the biggest and brightest screen that you can.
– Thrilling set pieces. The action in the movie is done with very little torque on the shaky-cam permanency that has become a cliche stable within modern day action films, giving us plenty of depiction and unabashed focus to what’s transpiring within the fast-paced heat of the scene. Thanks to the high frame rate that I previously mentioned, the fight choreography is slightly sped up, giving the clone an inhuman quality to his movements that make him easily distinguishable from the protagonist Smith that we follow through this journey. Continuing this positive is the space that Lee gives his actors to thrive far away from the camera. There are very few tight or claustrophobic angles in the movie, instead settling for a wide angle depiction that greatly caters to what audiences can see approaching in the background. These perks in turn allow the actors to succeed on their own physical performances without relying on cheap tricks to enhance their believability, and giving us a collection of enthralling action that boils the urgency to a kettle-blowing climax.
– Smooth pacing. This script wastes very little time setting the pieces in motion, as well as getting to understand what makes our protagonist such an advantage to the corporation that is out to kill him. Opening with a scene where Henry is hired to assassinate a shady businessman, we learn that he is every bit precise in his area of expertise as he is remorseful to the skills that he has attained in decades of this service. It perfectly sets the stage for what’s to come in 107 minutes of screen time, all along the way leaving very few moments of downtime between delightful characters and continued ambiguity in mystery that keeps audiences glued to the screen. There’s very little that I would cut from the finished product, and even plenty more exposition that I would add to certain respective subplots, which I will get to later.
– Sturdy performances. Smith pulling double duty here does so with a varying degree of personalities and persistence that establishes that while these two men look the same, they are anything but inside. As Henry, Smith still engages us with the warm charm that we’ve come to indulge in from one of Hollywood’s most notorious leading men of the past twenty years, but it’s his finger on the pulse of being an action icon that still resonates within his weathered exterior. It’s proof that Smith is still a reputable vehicle in selling a movie, and that even at the age of 51, he still doesn’t sleep through any performances. In addition to Smith, Masterson is equally charming as a spy with an agenda of her own. The two have great chemistry together on-screen, but it’s Mary’s cunning intelligence and anxious confidence in execution that is really the prime story here, etching her out as anyone other than a damsel in distress role that we would expect in a movie with such 90’s action similarities.
– Weak antagonist. How is Clive Owen the worst part of any movie? This sad-but-true revelation comes in the form of laughably bad dialogue, a complete lack of human emotional detection, and an overall lack of screen exposition sent on the character that practically reduces him to a supporting role. On a logic perspective, this character might as well be wearing a white lab coat with spiked hair and glasses to complete the mad scientist that the movie so prominently wants him to be. On top of this, the final conflict between good and bad comes and goes with so little stakes or amplification of struggle between the respective side. It outlines a performance for Owen that I know he would love to forget ever happened, and wastes the most reputable actor in the cast with a role so rudimentary that even the movie can’t be bothered to waste valuable minutes of screen time on.
– Weak mystery. This is a very predictable film, and a lot of that is a combination of poor marketing with an overly-revealing trailer, and confusing mental framing within the movie that really grants no favors on the intelligence of our protagonists. Even after multiple confrontations where Smith’s Henry sees the face of his pursuer, it still takes him and Masterson nearly fifty minutes of investigation and script time to realize that this is a clone of himself. That may sound like a spoiler to those of you reading this, but the movie’s trailer even reveals this fact in both of the ones produced to sell the movie. So it’s that aspect within a film where the audience are constantly one step ahead, instead of vice versa, leading us to several instances where I was practically screaming for the characters to catch up to what is so prominently evident. It’s sold as a mystery, but never one to the people that matter the most; us.
– Cheesy dialogue. It’s everywhere in this film, and not always the fault of Smith or his forced humor bone that is brought to light in every movie he’s in. Instead, the lines written by five different writers often alienates the complexion of the tone within the film, trying desperately to give us personality within a movie that is anything but. Some lines are spoon-fed exposition that are completely obvious, some are horrendously underwhelming comical gags, and the worst are these cringing one-liners that play into the twin gimmick, similar to 1997’s “Face-Off”. There are many examples, but my favorite is during the first scene when Smith and Masterson meet, and he says “You grow to hate the man you see staring back at you in the mirror”. This is so on-the-nose that it might as well hit it with a lead pipe, and ruins so many serious scenes of urgency with this obvious layer of 90’s cheese that is unintentionally humorous.
– Underdeveloped subplots. For every positive that comes with smooth pacing, there’s a few different negatives that materialize because of complete lack of time donated to subplot progression. For one, Smith’s Henry constantly mentions the anxiety of sleepless nights, yet we see him sleep two different times throughout the film. Perhaps if there was even a single dream sequence scene that served as the ghosts of the past haunting him, then we would further believe and empathize with the darkness that supposedly clouds him. Besides this, there’s certainly a father/fatherless subplot that the film obviously has something to speak on, but the lack of focus and contrasting sides to fruitfully solidify this angle loses far too much in translation for the movie to successfully garner any element of deep emotional tissue to connect with audiences. This is where Owen’s character could come into play much more frequently, but instead we are treated to a one-off scene that is easily my favorite of the movie, but required so much more to play into the nature versus nurture debate that the film was pointing to.
– Script inconsistencies. Once you start thinking more about the rules instilled in this movie between the twin gimmick, you start to realize more problems that transpired because of it. We are told about halfway through the movie that Henry’s clone Junior knows Henry’s every move, and does so without feeling any of the pain of emotional weight that comes with assassinating people. The first lie comes in the form of the mental similarity, where there is far too much landing offense to believe that these two are one and the same. The second deals with that lack of empathy that Junior supposedly has, yet almost every single scene (I’m not kidding) that he comes into during the movie, he’s noticeably crying. But wait, I thought he had all of the skill of Henry without any of the feeling that comes with such a profession? If a movie can’t even stick to the rules of its own gimmick, then it has failed itself long before the rest of the movie can, and “Gemini Man” is an example of all style with very little substance to equal it.
My Grade: 5/10 or D+