Hot take: Decidedly mediocre yet technologically impressive.
Ang Lee’s Gemini Man may be notable for its tour de force innovative visual special effects, but sadly by every other measure it’s a thoroughly pedestrian action film. With a paint by numbers plot, the surprises are nowhere to be found, resulting in a movie that’s lifeless and dull. One advantage is that the audience need not expend any effort to follow the narrative, that effort is necessary to endure the 117-minute slog.
Will Smith is Henry Brogan, an elite deadly assassin one job away from retirement, but that assignment comes with lethal consequences. After 72 kills Henry’s employers begin to suspect the motivations behind him hanging up his rifle. And when Henry meets with an old friend, he receives some startling news and learns that he is under heavy surveillance by Defense Intelligence Agency agent, Dani Zakarewski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Soon after Henry is hunted out of retirement, forcing him and Zakarewski to flee the country and seek help from Baron (Benedict Wong), an old colleague in Colombia. There Henry discovers that Clay Verris (Clive Owen), Henry’s former military commander, has unleashed a young assassin that can predict Henry’s every move. Now Henry Brogan must fight for his life against his own 23-year-old clone who has all of Henry’s fighting skills and instincts.
Gemini Man relies heavily on visual effects, and high-speed filming techniques, to sell the story, the problem is that no special effects are good enough to carry such a heavy load. The combination of ultra HD filming and a high frame rate is that the flaws in the visual effects are glaringly obvious. Every misplaced prop or misaligned computer-generated facial features draw the eye, destroying the illusion. The effects themselves are no more than an amplified deepfake, and elaborately enhanced choreography. As impressive as the technology behind Gemini Man is, many sequences are no more remarkable than the VFX demo reels uploaded to the internet every day.
Director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) has the skill and talent to turn out beautiful and engaging films but unfortunately, Gemini Man isn’t one of them. At best Lee’s direction is disinterested. The same could be said of Will Smith who can turn out a top-notch performance from the most uninspired material, he’s never been so disengaged in a role.
Monotonous is an adjective that should never apply to an action film, yet with a predictable payoff and by-the-numbers action, it succinctly defines Gemini Man.
Kyle J. Steenblik