Gemini Man (2019)

GeminiManPoster.jpegDirector: Ang Lee
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Rating: 12a
Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong, Ralph Brown, Linda Emond, Theodora Miranne, Douglas Hodge, Illa Volok, E. J. Bonilla

Based on a concept by Darren Lemke, hitman Henry Brogan (Will Smith) finds himself on the run from the government, who have sent after Henry a younger clone of himself. Conceived in 1997, the project has since passed through a number of directors and stars, while the script has been rewritten numerous times. This is because the project requires the younger clone to be made from visual effects, and the technology had long been considered underdeveloped to pull off something like that.

In an age where CG has developed so fantastically, where it's believable we're seeing a boy share a life raft with a tiger in Life of Pi, and a 70 year old Samuel L. Jackson can be de-aged by 30 years for Captain Marvel, there's no better time to try and pull off such a concept. Enter Weta Digital, whose effects work has stunned with The Lord of The Rings trilogy, and the recent Planet of the Apes films starring Andy Serkis. Despite a few noticeably creaky moments, the visual effects are wonderful in selling the feature premise, and seeing the work on the big screen is a great reminder of how far we've come with technological advances on the big screen.

But the visual effects can only go so far, and Smith has to meet them half-way. Thankfully, he does just that, and does believable work in portraying his 23 year old self, nicknamed Junior. From the way he moves to how he speaks, you'll believe you're seeing Fresh Prince era Will Smith acting in a 2019 film. But that's only one part of his performance, as Smith also plays Henry, an aged assassin whose life has been a lonely one full of regrets, and conveys that very well. Both of these characters serve as the films heart, for this is an opportunity for second chances, to build bridges, and rectify past mistakes.

That's unfortunately more than can be said for the supporting cast. As an agent unfortunately drawn into something larger than her, Mary Elizabeth Winstead does better work defining her character than the underwritten script offers her. Once more acting as enjoyable support to the lead, Benedict Wong is having a ball while serving as the plot device. On the antagonistic side of things, Clive Owen gets little more to do than play the moustache twirling villain.

There are high ambitions within the script, credited to David Benioff, Billy Ray, and Darren Lemke, which makes it a shame the final product doesn't seem to come together. The messy plotting tries to work around noticeable issues by having the lead comment on them, but it feels like a half-measure to work around not having an actual answer, or the solution feeling like a clunky inclusion. The most jarring one arrives late in the third act, as the film tries to comment on whether clones have the same right as humans, but it feels too little too late to try and address something with the potential to be so weighty. With a director like Ang Lee attached, it feels odd that he couldn't have crafted something so compelling with that idea, which leaves one to wonder if his focus was instead on the visual effects, rather than whether the script quality. Credit where it's due though, there's an action scene enacted on bikes which is visually stunning to behold.

A film over 20 years in the making, Gemini Man succeeds with the visual effects, but falls short in other areas. If the idea of a gun toting murderer doing battle with his younger self is a tantalising one, seek out 2012's masterful Looper.