Directed by: Ang Lee
Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong
Genre: Action, Thriller, Sci-Fi
Release Date: 11 October, 2019
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Budget: $138 million
Gemini Man is a 2019 American action thriller film directed by Ang Lee and written by David Benioff, Billy Ray, and Darren Lemke. Starring Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, and Benedict Wong, the film follows a hitman who is targeted by a younger clone of himself.
Originally conceived in 1997, the film went through development hell for nearly 20 years. Several directors including Tony Scott, Curtis Hanson and Joe Carnahan were all attached at some point and numerous actors including Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Sean Connery were set to star. In 2016, Skydance Media purchased the rights to the screenplay (which had been through several rewrites) from Disney and in October 2017, Ang Lee signed on to direct for Skydance with Paramount handling the distribution rights. Filming took place from February through May 2018.
Gemini Man premiered at the Zurich Film Festival on October 1, 2019 and was theatrically released in the United States by Paramount Pictures on October 11, 2019. The HFR (high frame rate) IMAX 3D+ version was released in limited screens. The film received generally unfavorable reviews from critics, who praised the performances but lamented the script and high frame rate used; the de-aging of Smith drew a mixed response.
Gemini Man was released in the United States on October 11, 2019 by Paramount Pictures. It was originally scheduled to be released on October 4, but Paramount pushed the film back for release a week later which would be October 11. It premiered at the Zurich Film Festival on October 1, 2019.
Gemini Man Movie Trailer:
Gemini Man Movie Review:
Ironically for a film that confronts obsolescence, Gemini Man sure feels like it belongs to the ’90s. Directed by two-time winner of the Academy Award for Best Director, Ang Lee, and starring Will Smith as a middle-aged assassin being chased by his younger clone, Gemini Man looks and feels like a relic from the era that gave us classics such as Face/Off and Enemy of the State.
Certainly, it makes all the sense in the world for Smith to revisit his heyday as an actor, but was it wise of him to make a film that is the most literal metaphor for a movie star’s age catching up with them? Who knows.
When his character, Henry Brogan, learns that he has been betrayed by the government agency that employs him, he goes on a globe-trotting quest to learn the truth. His mission gets murkier when the shady agency deploys what seems like a younger, more agile lookalike to track him down, and kill him.
I remember reading about how the audience erupted into peals of laughter during the Cannes Film Festival premiere of The Da Vinci Code, particularly during the scene in which Tom Hanks looks at Audrey Tautou with stone cold seriousness and informs her that she is the last remaining descendant of Jesus Christ. There is a scene in Gemini Man that will elicit the same sort of reaction from the audience. It happens around the halfway mark, when Mary Elizabeth Winstead walks up to Will Smith, and tells him that the guy who’s been chasing him; the guy with whom he had a gunfight in the previous scene, is his clone.
To be considered effectively entertaining, Gemini Man needed to be at least 30% better, or at least 20% worse. Right now, as it stands, it has none of the tongue-in-cheek joy of a ’90s action-thriller, nor does it have the grounded realism of a post – 9/11 blockbuster.
For Ang Lee to have decided to direct this feels both odd (it’s quite poorly written) and oddly logical (Lee insists on never repeating himself creatively). The biggest draw for him must have been the opportunity to revisit the high frame-rate technology that he first experimented with in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. The buzz that film received pre-release couldn’t translate into box office success, but it deserves a reappraisal. With the involvement of Smith, however, Lee probably secured a bigger budget, and afforded himself a greater chance to show the world what he believes to be the future of theatrical presentation.
I can’t comment on the high frame-rate, but the digital de-ageing they’ve used on Smith is surprisingly seamless. This is the second time in a row that trailers for his films have presented a rather underwhelming glimpse at how digital techniques have been used to alter his appearance. But just like Aladdin, Smith’s CGI avatar in Gemini Man works.
Aside from a couple of shots during a chase sequence in Colombia, in which both the elder Smith and Junior momentarily turn into gobs of rubber, the facial effects aren’t at all distracting. In fact, to the contrary, they help bring an added gravitas to the one-on-one confrontations between Henry and Junior.
Like Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow, Gemini Man also serves as a prime example of a movie star unpacking their legacy. In scenes where he tries talking Junior out of the life that has been chosen for him by a mad scientist, Smith appears to be questioning his own past decisions, which were no doubt influenced by the managers and agents who insisted on planning his career for him.
He remains, as always, an unbelievably magnetic presence, and despite all the nifty effects and cutting-edge technology, no computer can replicate the sheer hypnotism of watching a movie star on screen. The same cannot be said of the supporting characters, most of whom have been reduced to delivering inelegantly written exposition.
Gemini Man had been stuck in development hell over the last two decades, with filmmakers such as Tony Scott and Curtis Hanson attached to direct a script that has been tampered with by at least half-a-dozen writers. The end result is a hodgepodge of not only tones and aesthetics, but also ideas and voices. The stars have not aligned for Gemini Man.