Ang Lee may have one of the most diverse resumes of any working director; the man behind Sense & Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, and Life of Pi has never shied away from the most daring of projects. Gemini Man, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is no exception. The groundbreaking sci-fi thriller pits a sniper played by Will Smith against a clone of his younger self, and the technology is mind-boggling. Is Lee’s latest flick a bullseye? Or does it miss the mark completely?
GEMINI MAN: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Will Smith stars as Henry Brogan, a career sniper for the Defense Intelligence Agency. After a job nearly goes wrong, he makes the decision to retire, and soon discovers that this job may end up costing him his life. As he tries to settle into his retirement, he meets a boat rental manager named Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is actually a DIA agent sent to surveil Henry. The two wind up connecting and at the center of something much bigger than either of them every anticipated. It turns out that Henry’s last hit – the one that drove him to retirement – was actually an innocent man, a scientist employed by an elite private military sector called GEMINI. Now that Henry knows the truth, he must be eliminated. After he saves Danny from being assassinated, she decides to help him, and the two of them make a run for it.
Henry easily thwarts many of the individuals sent to kill him, but his world is turned upside down when he’s finally hunted by someone with eerily similar skills to his own. To Henry’s horror, he soon comes face to face with himself – well, the cloned, younger, stronger, faster version of himself. In a brilliant (and unhinged) move, the government cloned Henry – the most efficient killing machine in the world – without his knowledge. Now that the real Henry is in their way, they (and the coldblooded Clayton Verris, played by Clive Owen) have sent the clone to take him out… and take his place. As Henry and his clone discover the truth about what they are a part of, things get bloodier and the stakes get higher, until they’re finally forced to make decisions that will change their lives – and the course of history – forever.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Gemini Man doesn’t try to reinvent the action movie wheel, and hits a lot of the same beats we’re used to seeing these days in franchises like Mission: Impossible and The Bourne movies, with a little of the doubles element from Looper tossed in.
Performance Worth Watching: Woof, these actors do the best they can with what they’re given, but there are very few standout performances in Gemini Man. And it’s a fantastic cast! Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of my favorite working performers at the moment. Smith is great, per usual, as both himself and his clone, but it’s hard to know when the tears cried by his clone are real or computer-generated, and there’s still something just sliiiightly off about it all.
Memorable Dialogue: I gotta be honest. The dialogue in this movie was garbage. Even painful at times. I will concede that Smith’s performance helped sell some lines like “When I saw him, it was like I was seeing a ghost. Like every trigger I’ve ever pulled.” But for the most part, the conversations in Gemini Man are stilted, cliched, and generally lifeless.
Sex and Skin: Refreshingly so, this is not the kinda action thriller with crazy sweaty sexy scenes in between all the fighting. Or a giant age gap between a graying leading man and a fresh young ingenue. That is one point in Gemini Man‘s favor.
Our Take: Oh, I wanted Gemini Man to be good so badly! What a strange, soulless movie with so much squandered potential. The decision to shoot it at 120 frames per second (the typical movie is shot at 24!), creating a strange, hyperrealistic effect, one that makes you feel like you might be watching a video game play out. The film’s set pieces feel strangely underwhelming, the performances flat. And it almost makes the clone technology seem a little less convincing. This isn’t my biggest gripe with Gemini Man, but it’s certainly a large issue that might have helped it sing a little more as a thrilling, well, thriller.
A gimmick can’t keep a movie afloat. That’s the truth. And while it is totally exciting and mind-blowing to see how far technology has come, Will Smith and his clone aren’t able to make Gemini Man work on their own. The script is clunky and on occasion eye-roll inducing; the scenes that involve the discovery of the clone and his origins are genuinely painful to endure – it feels like stuff from an introductory screenwriting class. We don’t want to be spoon-fed. We can figure it out. And if Gemini Man had let us do a little more of the homework ourselves, it would be a much better movie. But instead, it decides to put on a dazzling light show that leaves you feeling pretty empty by the end, an entertaining but forgettable (and kind of terrifying?) glimpse of what the future of filmmaking may hold. The story, though? Well, there isn’t much of that here. And with a director and a cast like this, there are very few excuses for it.
It’s not that Gemini Man is offensively bad or particularly difficult to watch; it’s exactly the kind of movie you might let play on the TV while you move around the house doing other things, or choose if it’s free on an airplane. It’s passable. It’s fun. With a few tweaks, it could have been a great, mindless summer popcorn movie. But when there are top-notch, emotionally impactful action movies coming out by the handful these days, Gemini Man doesn’t come anywhere near making the mark. It just doesn’t have the heart.
Our Call: SKIP IT. While the technology and visuals are undeniably breathtaking, Gemini Man doesn’t really have a soul (or much of a script). It’s a real shame, because at its core, the concept is actually a pretty interesting one, but a gimmick can’t save a movie. While it may make acceptable airplane viewing fare, a few minutes of this film make it obvious that there’s a reason it was in development hell for two decades.
Stream Gemini Man on Amazon Prime Video