20 Oct 2019


Director Ang Lee’s Gemini Man has been in development hell since 1997, with actors such as Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and Sean Connery, as well as several filmmakers attached to the project. Clearly, it should have stayed that way.

The biggest problem the film has is its terrible script, which feels like it’s over two decades old despite having many writers attached to it. The clichéd plot features Henry Brogan (Will Smith), a government agent with a fictional organisation called the Department of International Intelligence (DIA).

Although Henry Brogan is considered the most prolific assassin of all time, he’s getting past his prime. Worse still, he’s developing a conscience, which isn’t ideal for a killer. After retiring, Henry learns that one of his targets was innocent. Here, in a typical twist from the genre, his former agency decides that Henry needs to be eliminated. In a bigger trope, the man who trained Henry and was something of a father figure, Clayton “Clay” Varris, makes this decision.

Clay is the director of a special black ops unit called Gemini. Here, Gemini Man throws in another twist, which has been at the forefront of the film’s expensive marketing. The assassin Clay sends after Henry is a younger, and more physically capable cloned version, named Junior.

With fellow agents Dani Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Benedict Wong (Baron) by his side, Henry tries to figure out who this mystery man is. He’s especially curious because his attacker has a similar fighting style. Eventually, with the help of his friends, he learns the truth. However, their obligatory confrontation is a bit of a letdown and lacks an emotional punch.

Despite commendable special effects and generally acceptable performances Ang Lee’s Gemini Man is let down by its script

While the plot of Gemini Man has potential despite sounding like a ’90s video game, it’s the dialogue that lets the film down. The script is dull, underwhelming, and full of exposition that’s almost insulting in the way it repeatedly explains its tired tropes. There’s also a bit of social commentary, but it seems to have been added as an afterthought.

This is a shame because the performances are acceptable. Will Smith and supporting actors Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Benedict Wong try their best to work with what they have.

Although Gemini Man didn’t look particularly good from the trailers, I wasn’t expecting a film so poor. Ang Lee has made some excellent films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Life of Pi (2012).

Like the script, most of the action scenes are also underwhelming. There is an excellent motorcycle chase scene, but it ends with a scene so ridiculous, it reminded me of a bad John Woo film.

Much has been made about the special effects in Gemini Man. The film is available at a potentially jaw-dropping 120 fps in true HFR (high frame rate) 3D. Sadly, the film is only available for viewing in its full glory at a handful of theatres across the world.

I was fortunate enough to catch the film in HFR at 60FPS, and it certainly looks good. The de-ageing technology used to make Will Smith look younger is impressive and much better than similar effects in the recent Star Wars films. It’s even a touch above the commendable de-ageing work in the Marvel films. However, it looks best in the darker scenes. In broad daylight, it’s clear that the technology is far from perfect, with the youthful Will Smith looking a bit creepy.

All credit to Ang Lee for trying to push the envelope and get us back to the cinema. Clearly, he wanted to replicate James Cameron’s success with Avatar (2009) and 3D technology. But people aren’t going to see a bad film even if it does boast cutting-edge effects. While Gemini Man can look good, it doesn’t have enough substance to light the box office on fire.

Rated PG-13 for violence and action throughout, and brief strong language

Published in Dawn, ICON, October 20th, 2019