Directed by: Ang Lee
Premise: An aging sniper (Will Smith) on the verge of retirement becomes the target of a private military company that has secretly cloned him. The younger version hunts his older counterpart.
What Works: The set pieces of Gemini Man are well executed. The action is furious but logical with the screen direction staged in such a way that it’s clear where the characters are in relation to one another. In pitting a younger and older version of the same character against each other, the filmmakers choreograph the tactics and movements of the two men so that they mirror each other but there is a weariness and wisdom to the older man that is distinct from the ferocity and tenacity of his younger clone.
What Doesn’t: Gemini Man is built upon two gimmicks, neither of which is done well. The first is purely technical. Gemini Man is being shown theatrically in sixty frames per second in some locations. The high frame rate does not do the film any favors. The imagery is remarkably clear and the action and visual texture is very detailed but the look is so clear that it is off putting and paradoxically makes everything look fake. It is unclear if the artificial look is an inherent defect of the sixty frames per second format or just the way it contrasts with the way we’ve been conditioned to expect cinema to look. Regardless, the high frame rate of Gemini Man is a prime example of how technological gimmicks cannot compensate for a film that is otherwise mediocre. The other gimmick of Gemini Man is its premise which pits Will Smith against himself. The younger version of the character is rendered through digital de-aging and while the illusion is an impressive technical feat the filmmakers do nothing with that premise. The story sets up the idea of the older character struggling with guilt for the many kills of his career but his trauma isn’t presented in any meaningful way. There is an especially wasted opportunity here in the casting of Will Smith. As a younger actor, Smith had a different persona; his characters in Men in Black and the original Bad Boys were cocky but his later films dropped the smugness. Gemini Man could have pitted the different phases of Smith’s career against one another but the younger clone is just bland. The film also wastes Mary Elizabeth Winstead who plays a green intelligence operative. Winstead is a good actress but she has nothing to do and her character could be removed from the story without changing anything. There is very little tension in Gemini Man. The story drags and it has a lot of dead periods in which the characters jet across the world from one exposition dump to the next. The plotting of this film doesn’t make much sense. The surprises that are supposed to be shocking revelations just unravel the story’s already tenuous logic.
Bottom Line: Gemini Man wastes a good cast and an interesting premise. It does not deliver on any of its gimmicks nor does it satisfy as an action adventure.
Episode: #774 (November 3, 2019)