Gemini Man, the collaboration between Ang Lee and Will Smith, was being heavily promoted over the past month. We were eager to see how it turned out – here are our thoughts.
Much of the media hype during the pre-release phase of Gemini Man was about the technical milestones the movie marked. Perhaps most prominently, these included screening technologies that offer 120 frames per second projection as well as 60 frames per second in 3D (we watched the latter version in a Dolby Cinema theater). We’ll dive into that later in the review.
Then of course there was the fact that Gemini Man features a digitally recreated younger version of Will Smith – but Gemini Man is about three years too late as that’s something we’ve seen quite a bit recently. Younger versions of Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Douglas have all demonstrated how far special effects have come, and it’s been a bit of a head-turner every time. The younger Smith is different in that’s he’s been fully rendered by a computer rather instead of just getting a younger faced planted on the older actor, but the end effect is comparable.
Looking beyond the tech wizardry behind the movie, another reason to look forward to Gemini Man was its “high concept” plot – an aging assassin for the government gets set up, and is subsequently marked for death. Since he’s the best at what he does, the only person deemed qualified to take him out is…. a younger version of himself, cloned without his knowledge or approval twenty-something years ago.
It’s the kind of sci-fi meets violent action movie plot that made Face/Off so riveting, and I found myself thinking “is Ang Lee doing a John Woo here?” a couple of times during the movie. But while John Travolta and Nicolas Cage both delivered career-defining performances among a strong supporting cast, Will Smith’s performance is the only noteworthy one in Gemini Man due to the heavy emphasis on the interaction between him and his clone. And that’s “current age” Will Smith I’m referring to, playing Henry Brogan. His younger self – though fascinating to watch, is less convincing. Part of that is due to the very same reason he’s interesting – his digital biology. It looks convincing enough for the most part, but in action scenes Lee goes slightly over the top and gives the clone inhuman strength, speed and capabilities.
Nevertheless, this is a movie that requires a certain degree of suspension of disbelief to be enjoyed, and it’s not the first time we’ve seen enhanced supersoldiers this year. Idris Elba’s character in Hobbs and Shaw was similar, and made for some equally thrilling action sequences. Gemini Man has three of four lengthy action sequences that are a thrill to watch, and these adrenaline-filled scenes are where Gemini Man works best – and this is where technology definitely helps.
Not only does a digital clone deliver awe-inspiring stunts, the combination of HFR projection and Dolby Cinema/Atmos sound turned these scenes into a visual feast. Images were so clear that it was like looking at high resolution stills with no noticeable blurring even during high octane action scenes, with the first meeting between Smith and “Junior” being a standout example due to its many outdoor shots and use of bright color.
Clive Owen, as the mastermind behind the slightly sinister “Gemini” organization, plays a decent enough bad guy and Mary Elizabeth Winstead helps Smith out as a surveillance agent-turned-sidekick, but in the end you’re likely to just remember the explosive action sequences and not the script. Luckily, that’s quite alright for me when it’s a cinema experience – and Gemini Man is an audiovisual treat that is certainly a showcase for modern day technology.