GEMINI MAN gets 4/10 Clone Alone

Directed by Ang Lee

Starring Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen


Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain) is a director that’s never satisfied staying with one genre, but instead challenges himself with something different every project. As such, despite Gemini Man looking like rather a stale sci-fi action thriller, seeing what an Academy Award winning director could do with that concept was enough to pique interest.

For decades Henry Brogen (Will Smith) has been the best assassin the government has had, but when he barely manages to make a shot, he realises that his age is catching up to him. However, when agents are sent to kill him, Brogen finds himself on the run, pursued by the by the ruthless Gemini project, and the one man that may have the ability to be better than him.

OK, that man is a younger clone of Brogen (played by a digitally de-aged Will Smith).

That would be a spoiler, with the reveal happening almost half way through the film, but the marketing has led with that, the trailer has led with that, and even the poster has that emblazoned across it. Gemini Man is a film that builds itself up for a mysterious reveal, but the audience already knows exactly what that reveal is.

The result is an average Will Smith movie, and a terrible Ang Lee film. The director seems to have thrown himself into the technical side of things, developing and deploying the new 3D+ 120 fps (frames per second) technology while making a rather ordinary action thriller, with some extraordinarily clunky lines. In fairness that new technology is impressive, giving a crisp clear look to the film that’s unlike anything yet seen, but it still feels like a test run of this system rather than a fait accompli.

It mostly works for Gemini Man, with the digital avatar rarely leaving you in little doubt that it is a younger Will Smith. Rather it’s the general effects that are occasionally patchy, as the vivid detail of the format can occasionally highlight some of the poorer digital effects. This occurs mostly when there’s a digital model substituted for a stunt, making the audience feel like they’re momentarily watching a video game rather than a film. It’s not enough of an immersion break to effect a rather excellent mid film action sequence (as the initial extended confrontation between young and old Smith is probably the highlight of this film), but it is very noticeable in the uninspired climax.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what technical innovations you have in play when the script is deficient. Based on a concept from 1997, that has been attached to numerous directors and action stars in the decades to follow, Gemini Man feels dated in terms of the genre. The concept has already been explored in a better fashion by past films (Looper and Logan), and the pacing and action sequences feel like they are of a bygone era. None of this is helped by a script that has groan worthy dialogue, a central mystery that’s blown by its marketing campaign, and a complete inability to make anything interesting out of its own central conceits (experience vs youth, or nature vs nurture, both are left unexplored). Nor does Will Smith have either the range or talent to power through this mess.

Rather Gemini Man devolves into one long game of “stop hitting yourself”, which is every bit as painfully repetitive as when your big brother decided to do that for an entire two hour trip. Not an experience anyone wants to repeat.


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