Gemini Man

 

starstarstarhalf

 


An unexpected but entertaining film from Ang Lee.

 
Gemini Man 

I saw this film with an innocent eye and enjoyed it. Chancing on a public performance of it while on holiday in Paris, I entered the cinema knowing only that Will Smith had a dual role in it and that rather surprisingly the film brought together the producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the director Ang Lee. Despite Lee’s ill-fated involvement in the world of Marvel Comics with Hulk in 2003, it seemed strange that this adventurous and distinguished filmmaker should opt to offer us a work which I had rather vaguely heard of as being a sci-fi movie. I was aware that Lee’s preceding venture, the harshly criticised Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk of 2016, had been shot controversially in 3-D and at an advanced frame rate, but I only learnt afterwards that he had done the same with Gemini Man and the chance to repeat that may have drawn him to this new movie (as it happens, however, with both works I saw a 2-D version which seemed fine). Also outside my knowledge was the fact that the screenplay for Gemini Man had been around for some twenty years without being taken up and that initial reviews of the film by critics were in many cases unfavourable.

 

To see Gemini Man with little advance knowledge may well be beneficial since it turns the experience into a voyage of discovery. What I found was a story about an accomplished middle-aged assassin named Henry Brogan (Will Smith) which, because the plot development involves human cloning, does indeed have a futuristic element. Nevertheless it is much closer to being a cross between a John le Carré thriller (early on much of it neatly relishes our uncertainty as to who is trustworthy and who isn’t) and the kind of exaggerated action we find in the Bourne films. The cloning aspect brings in Smith’s second role as Henry’s cloned son who, built up to outdo even his father as a militarised assassin but unaware of his connection to him, is sent to kill Henry by the authorities who want him dead. What makes this a timely movie is the fact that youthifying technology now enables the 51-year-old Smith to play not only Henry but the 23-year-old Junior as well.

 

If that technology is remarkably effective, the movie is also helped by Smith being on his most confident form in both performances and by the added appeal of Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a strong female character who, as in the case of Henry himself, has us at the outset having to ponder whether or not she is portraying somebody who can be trusted. There is never any sense that Lee is transcending standard genre material but he shows that he can undoubtedly handle this kind of piece: throughout we have skilled direction linked to admirable editing by Lee regular Tim Squyres and together they offer a standout sequence featuring a motorcycle chase in Colombia (the film has a wide range of locations although basically set in America). Admittedly, there are weaknesses: compare this to a Bond movie and it is all too clear that Clive Owen as the big villain of the piece fails to make much impression and, despite a climactic confrontation with some interesting talk, the later scenes include moments of action which are just standard examples of today’s over-the-top action pieces that are not to my taste. There is also a sentimental coda, but the lead performances, the technical mastery (the film keeps up an admirable momentum throughout its 117 minutes) and the appeal of its more novel aspects certainly kept me entertained in spite of my reservations.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong, Ralph Brown, Linda Edmond, Douglas Hodge, Victor Hugo, Theodora Miranne, Ilia Volok, E.J. Bonilla.

 

Dir Ang Lee, Pro Jerry Bruckheimer, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Don Granger, Screenplay David Benioff, Billy Ray and Darren Lemke, from a story by Darren Lemke and David Benioff, Ph Dion Beebe, Pro Des Guy Hendrix Dyas, Ed Tim Squyres, Music Lorne Balfe, Costumes Suttirat Anne Labarbe.

 

Skydance Media/Jerry Bruckheimer Films/Fosun Pictures/Alibaba Pictures-Paramount Pictures.
117 mins. USA/China 2019. Rel: 11 October 2019. Cert. 12A.