DIRECTOR: ANG LEE | SCREENPLAY: DAVID BENIOFF, BILLY RAY, DARREN LEMKE | STARRING: WILL SMITH, MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD, CLIVE OWEN, BENEDICT WONG | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Gemini Man – an odd choice of title for a sci-fi movie, given that back in the seventies there was a short-lived TV series of the same name which thankfully bears absolutely no resemblance to this film. Also, despite the title which evokes either a superhero vibe or sci-fi expectation, it isn’t actually a science fiction film as such, despite using a genre trope, albeit in an ingenious way.
Will Smith stars in this white-knuckle all-action film as Harry Brogan, a lethal government assassin, one of the best, if not THE best in the business. Brogan’s feeling his age and wants to retire to a quiet life away from the killing, but when he is told some troubling and sensitive information about his last hit, his agency sends an assassin after him. The ultimate assassin, the one person who could take Brogan out – a younger clone of Brogan himself, a result of the Gemini project (hence the title), and the chase is on. The concept is one that is so obvious, yet so original.
Although several other actors were considered for the role (Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson among them, and it’s fun to imagine how differently they’d have played the dual role), clearly Will Smith was the best choice. Even as a government hitman, the guy is disarming (if you’ll pardon the pun) and likeable. Ang Lee makes a welcome return to the action movie genre, directing the mayhem, particularly the sequences involving Smith the elder on foot, being pursued by Smith the younger on a motorcycle, with the precision of a ballet in rapid movement, timing, quick editing, and wirework.
But despite Smith’s charisma and Lee’s technical expertise, this film, by the nature of its plot, will stand or fall on the visual effects, in particular, the digital de-ageing of the now 51-year-old star. To be blunt, WETA Digital’s work here is superb. We’ve seen actors de-aged previously, most recently in Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame – but Gemini Man takes the technique to an entirely new level. Smith the younger is never anything less than totally convincing – demonstrating how far this effect has been developed since, say X-Men: The Last Stand, where Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen looked frankly absurd in a flashback. During scenes of hand to hand combat, it is mind-blowing seeing Suicide Squad era Will Smith fighting Fresh Prince of Bel-Air era Will Smith – and for it to look real.
For an action-packed thriller/chase movie with a slight seasoning of science fiction, this one is hard to beat.