The technology of ‘Gemini Man’ may be amazing, but the narrative is anything but.
Kernel Rating: 1.5 out of 5
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 117 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 13+. This action film raises questions about cloning in the desire for the perfect soldier; war is a consistent theme, and we hear about people’s traumatic experiences in war zones around the world, about people they killed, and about how that time affected them. There are various action sequences, including shoot-outs, fights, car chases, someone who is set on fire, and a scene where someone tortures another person by pulling out their teeth. Parental abuse is discussed, and parents physically hurting their children is seen. Characters drink beer; some light sexually themed humor, and a scene where a male character asks a female character so strip so he can search for a wire; and a plethora of product placement for beverages and snacks.
By Roxana Hadadi
Undeniably, the latest Will Smith action vehicle “Gemini Man” looks amazing. It is truly a staggering feat of technological achievement for director Ang Lee, who gives us a film with not just one Will Smith but two, with the younger version of the actor created using footage of Smith in his 20s. But there are no theaters in the United States that actually have all the necessary resources to present this film as Lee intended, and the story is such a mess that you’ll wonder whether Lee paid attention to this narrative at all.
“Gemini Man” introduces us to professional assassin Henry Brogan (Smith), who for 25 years has worked for the U.S. government’s Defense Intelligence Agency after serving in the Marines. After killing dozens of people at the behest of his bosses, Henry decides to finally retire to his isolated plot of land in Georgia—but there’s something a little off about his final job. He was told the man he was killing was a bioterrorist, but a former colleague tells him different: the man was just a scientist.
So who was the man, and why was Henry directed to kill him? Henry’s explorations lead him backward, forcing him to revisit his past with Clay Verris (Clive Owen), who used to be his commanding officer in the Marines. Verris is now the head of Gemini, a private security firm with major government contracts, and he and Henry still have bad blood. And when Verris sends an assassin after Henry himself, the man has to put his retirement plans on hold. With Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a Defense Intelligence Agency agent, in tow, Henry begins his escape from Clay and his desire for the truth.
“Gemini Man” unfortunately spoiled its primary secret in all the marketing materials for the film—that the younger clone Clay sends after Henry is in fact a copy of Henry himself—and it’s very strange that the movie instead insists that this revelation is some huge secret. For about half the film, the characters act as if they can’t tell that they’re clones of each other, and it’s a very bizarre insistence that takes viewers out of the experience. And it’s also strange that the film uses concepts like parental abuse and warzone trauma to raise questions about identity that it doesn’t really address. Instead, the movie sets up a rivalry between Henry and Clay that feels superficial and unexplored, while Winstead’s Danny stands around without much to do.
The film’s various advanced technologies make for sometimes-beautiful, often-jarring viewing. The opening scene is spectacularly detailed, and you can see every pore on Smith’s face, every hair in his beard, and every blade of grass in the field in which he’s preparing to assassinate a man. But the high frame rate that Lee uses also makes a number of different scenes look sped up, artificial, or if they were filmed in front of a green screen. It’s a strange dichotomy between the actors looking more real and accessible and the locations around them looking wholly fake, and it’s an increasingly distracting combination.
Aside from the advanced tech, “Gemini Man” can’t warrant its own existence. The narrative is cliched, the characters are underwritten, and all of Smith’s charisma can’t redeem a plot that has very little to say about the nature of humanity. Much like last year’s “Alita: Battle Angel,” “Gemini Man” has moments of great visual impact but is ultimately quite shallow.
Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.