When you look at yourself in the mirror, you have to like what you see…
While Gemini Man gets a little flashy with some solid action and technical knowhow, it’s still a little bit gonzo and a little bit kooky dip into the genre storytelling pond that plays a little uneven but is elevated just a bit by a very informed and smart performance from its leading man.
Henry Brogan (Will Smith), an elite assassin, is suddenly targeted and pursued by a mysterious young operative that seemingly can predict his every move. To his horror, he soon learns that the man who’s trying to kill him is a younger, faster, cloned version of himself.
It’s hard to knock director Ang Lee for trying new things, because that’s how we innovate and learn new techniques. Here on Gemini Man, shooting in high frame rate speeds we get a decent little action thriller that takes itself a little more seriously than it should at times but actually marks a real improvement in high frame rate shooting in concert with some solid special effects work. It’s not perfect, but gives us a glimpse of what this technology can do in concert with the right story telling.
It all certainly fits better than it did in Lee’s previous film; Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk as the advancements in digital filmmaking really feels more at home in the action and genre world then more of a straight drama affair.
The script which has been bouncing around in development hell in various forms since 1997 is actually a little goofy even at the best of times as it requires a couple of broad logic jumps and moments to turn the brain to the “off” position in order for it all to work. There’s really nothing here that’s “bad” but you get the feeling very early on that you just have to “go with it” to genuinely enjoy the next two hours. The character development outside Will Smith in the dual lead is actually pretty minimal which actually works for and against the film at the same time, because had there been too intricate of a story people would have dialed out or if it had been cut down to 90 minutes of cool fight sequences and motorcycle chases it would have just been nonsense.
Being his first real jump into (kind of) science-fiction, Lee holds his own by allowing the struggle of the primary character to really be the focus. It’s a popcorn action flick with a character study inside of it all and you have to at least be able to give Lee credit for actively trying new things and mixing up his approach. It all looks, better than I expected given that high frame films have previously given me a splitting headache in the past and it never really feels too long in the tooth.
Plain and simple…this movie survives because of Will Smith who actually works his ass off to channel his younger self coming to grips with his older self. He gives a nuanced look at a man who was born out of war and learned the hard way to grow sick of it and when he literally sees himself being set down a path that he has lived he has to find away do for the younger version of himself what he could only just manage for his older self. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Benedict Wong make for decent action sidekicks along the way while sadly Clive Owen gets wasted as the military industrialist Clay Varris as he can barely muster up the energy to chew the scenery.
The picture and sound quality on the 4K Blu are obviously top notch and even in 2D seeing the downconverted High Frame Footage is crisp and immersive, while it’s not perfect you can really see the benefits of shooting a film this particular way. The special features include an alternate opening, 2 deleted scenes and 6 some what interesting but mostly generic behind the scenes featurettes about the making of the film.
Ultimately, Gemini Man gets a mild pass because of a very solid performance from Will Smith and the HFPS filming which you should be able to appreciate in most IMAX or AVX screens but it’s just too messy of a narrative to really be something that hammers itself into your brain as memorable. While we can appreciate the need for experimentation and innovation on a cinematic level, but sometimes asking us audiences to pay full ticket freight for that sort of thing can get a little grating.