The Will To Create
With all good movies, it's fair to say there's a moment where the narrative and characters synchronize with something in life or philosophy. Although not widely adored upon release, Ang Lee's Gemini Man deserves an audience. The two time Oscar winning director had to wait twenty years for technology to properly de-age a movie star. Although Will Smith squares off against a younger clone of himself, that's not the biggest selling point here. More on that later.
Meanwhile, Henry Brogan (Smith) loses sleep because ghosts from the past torment him. He's got a conscience, he cares for people although being an assassin means he'll never fully assimilate into ordinary life. With a way out seemingly in grasp, government officials view him as a threat. Apparently, he botched an assignment. So with Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, always worth watching) and old comrade Baron (Benedict Wong), he relocates. Little good it does him as a hitman quickly tracks him down. Eventually, Henry realises a bigger conspiracy lies afoot when the mystery man's identity ends up revealed.
The idea of Smith playing two versions of himself -- one a fully realized human being while the doppelganger has been trained to dismiss feelings of pain, emotional and physical -- works splendidly. The latter, nicknamed Junior, appears to be thirty years younger than his target. He was raised by Clay Verris (Clive Owen), the man who originally instructed Henry in the arts of killing. Those barriers I mentioned before soon begin to crack as Junior comes to terms with what he must do, and whether a human heart beats beneath the skin of a clone.
Like his Commander Arun Filitt in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Clive Owen customises shades of character in significant glimpses. On the surface, Junior might be just a weapon to him, a tool to get the job done. Yet Owen conveys a paternal aspect which causes the second story strand to feel more open-hearted.
Surprisingly, composer Lorne Balfe makes the most of themes within his comfort zone. His score comes across as tuneful and expressive. He administers engaging timbres during a key bike chase which makes a replay of the sequence essential.
There were times I was reminded of The Prisoner of Zenda, the 1952 remake starring Stewart Granger and James Mason. Technically, Gemini Man surpasses the digital cosmetic surgery behind Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, evincing clever sleight of hand and computer generated finesse. An Oscar nomination for Visual Effects ought to be a no-brainer. Whether younger or his current age, Smith allows comedy to heighten the appeal of his character.
Above all, the scenes between Smith and Winstead made me believe in Gemini Man. Small details flatter as they get to know one another, and learn they have more in common than first glance would suggest. For her part, Winstead was simply outstanding. On top of marksmanship and other resourceful traits, her voice conveys a certain maturity normally associated with Bette Davis and Lauren Bacall.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “PG-13” for violence and action throughout, and brief strong language.)