Thursday, June 11, 2020

Film Review: Gemini Man

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

Will Smith is one of those rare stars that made the jump from music to TV to movies with incredible success.  He is an actor of incredible charisma who has aged gracefully and believably as an older action star.  Fans of his look back on his earlier hits with great nostalgia.  His latest film Gemini Man tries to split the difference between fans of his newer and older performances.

Gemini Man is about a middle-aged sniper Henry Brogan (Smith), a man who has dedicated his life to putting down evil threats to the world.  But the weight of his actions, righteous as he may feel them to be, have taken their toll and he retires.  Despite this, he is still shadowed by undercover agent Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), whom he quickly sniffs out and begins a friendship of sorts.  However, he finds out that his last mark may have been innocent.  Receiving this information puts him in danger with a shadowy man from his past, Clay Varris (Clive Owen).  Varris dispatches an assassin to kill Brogan and Danny, and this assassin happens to be a younger version of Henry.  With the help of Henry's friend Baron (Benedict Wong) they go on the run and try to solve the mystery behind their pursuers.

Director Ang Lee thankfully eschews his more experimental style like we saw in Hulk, and instead creates a more straight-forward action style.  And this is where the movie works at its best.  These sequences are exciting and entertaining.  They are grounded enough to be gritty and believable, but there is just enough over-the-top action to let it stand out.  I particularly like the moment when one character deflects a grenade by shooting it.

Lee also did a great job casting the movie.  Smith is able to pull off both the world-weary veteran and the wide-eyed innocent (with the help digital de-aging).  He makes both versions of him sympathetic while being at clear odds with each other.  I have long been a big fan of Winstead.  Being placed next to Smith runs the risk of being outshined.  But she is every bit as intelligent, strong, and charismatic as he is in the role.  Wong is allowed to be the comic relief and he adds and important element of levity to the story.  Owen is decent as the main antagonist, but he never rises to the level of the heroes and is bit too much in the line of "generic bad guy."

The main problem with the movie is the story.  The film necessitates a sci-fi element of cloning, but this is where the movie is weakest.  When it focuses on the action, the film sails.  But when it has to get into the science and ethics of cloning, it grinds to a halt.  This is a shame, because there are some interesting issues brought up.  As a Catholic, it is easy to see how artificially creating human life leads to it being devalued.  But no matter a person comes into this world, they are still made in God's image and deserve dignity.  The movie wants to explore the ethics of genetic improvement and national security, but all of these points fall flat.  They feel like obligatory exposition to allow for the more entertaining action set pieces.

The movie is generally considered a bomb financially with very poor critic reviews.  But despite its flaws, Gemini Man is a fun, inoffensive action film that isn't great, but may provide some mild thrills.


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