GEMINI MAN. Starring: Will Smith, and Clive Owen. Also, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Benedict Wong. Directed by Ang Lee. Rated M (action violence and coarse language). 117 min.
This American science fiction, mystery-suspense, thriller is about an elite assassin, who is targeted by a younger clone of himself. It is directed by Taiwanese Director, Ang Lee, who delivered the award winning films, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000), “Brokeback Mountain” (2005), and “Life of Pi” (2012).
The film’s title symbolically represents a man who is distant from his own emotions, who has difficulty understanding himself, but is a clever person. Ang Lee is the only Director to have been awarded the Golden Bear twice at the Berlin International Film Festival. He has been nominated for nine Academy Awards, and won three for the films just mentioned.
In this film, Will Smith plays Henry Brogan, a 51 yr. old sharpshooter assassin, working for a CIA-type agency, called the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and he is its top hit-man. After his 72nd kill, Brogan decides to retire as a hired assassin from the agency. He is beginning to feel guilty about what he has done. He kills as “the perfect assassin”, but his “soul hurts”. Before he can put his retirement plans into effect, the DIA sends a clone of Brogan to wipe him out, and he finds himself targeted by a much younger-looking version of himself.
The villain of the piece is Clay Verris (Clive Owen), who trained a lone replica of Brogan to be more ruthless than Brogan, and who kept his project secret for 25 years. Now it is time, Verris asserts, to order the cloned replica to hunt down and kill the original. Verris is a industry-military tycoon, who wants to produce perfect assassins engineered to kill without remorse. The DIA thinks Brogan knows too much to be allowed to retire peacefully.
There are two versions of Brogan in this movie. One is a real-life person, Will Smith, and the other is a not-quite human version of Will Smith as a younger man. With the help of digital manipulation, an older Will Smith finds himself in a death-defying showdown with a younger-looking replica of himself, which is a situation that poses considerable technical challenge.
The solution to this dilemma, that Ang Lee produces, is a huge leap forward in visual effects, and the film inspires admiration for the sophistication of the technology that it adopts. The effects that are achieved significantly enhance the experience a viewer can get from the visual features of a good film. This is a film where the viewer is confronted by high-tech visual technology that operates at 120 frames per second to produce an action-spectacular movie which makes extraordinary use of film technology. The movie might have a thin script, and offer patchy sentiments about father-son relationships, but the digital de-ageing of Smith is very impressive indeed. The Smiths’ interactions are handled cleverly, and the difference between what’s real and what’s simulated blurs. By means of the film’s visual-effects technology, we see a middle-aged Will Smith impressively trying to outwit his 23 year old same self. The film has an amazing depth of field to its photography, especially in 3-D format, and the effects that the film’s production team creates, particularly when the two Will Smiths are locked together in fierce combat, are amazing.
Ang Lee is an exceptionally talented Director, and his past films show a fascination for high-tech, visually arresting imagery. This film, however, edges Ang Lee’s fascination with special effects over to almost a preoccupation with them, but the film raises the standards of compelling visual cinema to a technically very high level. In this film, Ang Lee lets film technology deliver a suspenseful thriller that burns to an eventful, fast-action climax.
The film is a mystery thriller in its plot-line, but a technological wonder. If one is to enjoy the film, it is important that the movie be viewed in 3D, not 2D, format. The film has enormous technological clout and for that reason serious cinema-goers should see it. When they do, they will experience something very special in cinema visuals, that Ang Lee has worked cleverly to achieve.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Released October 10, 2019