Gemini Man (2019)
Gemini Man (2019)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 57 min.

Release Date: October 11th, 2019 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Ang Lee Actors: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong, Douglas Hodge, Ralph Brown, Linda Emond, Theodora Miranne

 


 

I

n Liege, Belgium, a train carries a terrorist in need of a sniper’s bullet. Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is the man for the job, peerlessly honed to complete the kill from afar as the transport whips past. Once the mission has concluded, Brogan returns to his Georgia home, where handler Del Patterson (Ralph Brown) acknowledges Brogan’s looming retirement with a heavy heart. But after 72 confirmed kills, it’s time for peace; the elite operative just wants to discover some semblance of normalcy – and maybe fish for mackerel.

When Henry visits the Buttermilk Sound marina, where pleasant but suspicious Danielle Zakarewski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) works as an attendant, he meets up with longtime friend Jack (Douglas Hodge) out on the water. He learns that an informant by the name of Yuri Kovacs (Ilia Volok) has evidence that Henry’s latest assassination was, in fact, not that of a biochemical terrorist, but rather a scientist working for American paramilitary company Gemini Global Defense, run by former trainer Clayton Verris (Clive Owen). And now that Henry knows he’s been used to murder people who may not have deserved to die, he becomes the target of an assassination order by his own division, the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Brogan is the best at what he does, which translates into some phenomenal moments of formidability; when a hit squad descends on his position, it’s tense and exciting to see him fight his way to safety, contending with being outgunned and outnumbered. Dragging Danielle along for the ride proves to be a fun, fitting strategy; she’s an awe-inspiring character herself, capable of self-defense and kicking ass just like the many male soldiers out to dispatch them. “It’s like watching the Hindenburg crash into the Titanic,” quips Verris, after realizing that permanently silencing Brogan is going to be a substantial hurdle.

Had “Gemini Man” stuck with this formula – of an expert hunter turned into the hunted – it could have been a competent, if run-of-the-mill, derivation of James Bond or Jason Bourne. With all the globetrotting (thanks to powerful friends with limitless resources); the sea, air, and land cinematography; the clandestine campaigns; the chases, shootouts, and combat; and the high-speed pursuits through claustrophobic spaces, the film has all the earmarks of a tumultuous spy flick. But then, to great disappointment, some obvious computer-enhanced stunts arrive. And then, to even greater disappointment, comes a lookalike nemesis – a clone – that adds a disagreeable level of science-fiction to the fray.

The initial premise absolutely did not need sci-fi embellishments, yet the writers (one of whom was David Benioff, of “Game of Thrones” fame) clearly felt that without it, “Gemini Man” wouldn’t stand out from the crowd. But the cloning aspect becomes the one thing that doesn’t work. It’s not as outrageous as “The 6th Day” or “The Prestige,” but it still feels all wrong; here, it’s implied that a clone grows up to be an exact duplicate, magically inheriting not only all the specific skills (such as hand/eye coordination and long-distance marksmanship) and physical characteristics of the original, but also psychological qualities – likes, dislikes, habits, emotions, fears, thoughts, instincts, and more. One would think that exhaustive recruiting and training would be enough to mold a person into an equivalent sniping talent. All of the traits that are learned during a lifetime – Brogan’s entire phenotype, along with attitudes and aptitudes – appear to be genetically injected into the clone, yet no one’s brain is actually downloaded into a blank body.

It’s not as sensible as “Soldier” or “Universal Soldier” (though these are only peripherally related to the cloning theories seen here), nor is it as edgy as “Looper” or “Moon”; but it’s slightly less preposterous than the “Resident Evil” sequels and “Splice.” Adding an extra layer of weirdness is Smith playing dual roles, continually clashing with a younger version of himself. Many of these sequences are thoroughly convincing, employing state-of-the-art technology to slap Smith’s face onto a motion-capture doppelgänger. Yet for all the visual advancements and polish, nothing can save “Gemini Man” from its anticlimactic climax and its ludicrously silly finale. Smith and Winstead make an amusing team during the action scenes, but little else can be taken seriously enough for this to succeed as an A-list thriller.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10