Ang Lee has always pushed the boundaries of filmmaking, whether it’s from the breathtaking cinematography of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or the groundbreaking visual effects of Life of Pi. He then filmed his previous movie, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, at an unprecedented high frame rate of 120 frames per second and is now pairing it with the latest de-aging technology for Gemini Man. It’s a film that feels more like a glorified tech demo, showcasing the latest capabilities of where the industry is heading. Gemini Man is visually impressive at times, but the film shows that there is still plenty of room for improvement and in the end its visuals aren’t enough to overcome the lackluster story.
Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is the government’s best assassin and has done what some might consider the impossible over the years with more than 70 confirmed kills. Despite still being one of the most skilled soldiers in the field, Henry has decided to retire and walk away from his past. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t like having any loose ends and takes it upon themselves to make him their new target. To kill their best hitman, they enlist the help of Clay Varris (Clive Owen) and his black ops unit GEMINI to send a stronger, faster, and younger clone of Henry after him.
Gemini Man is like a barebones version the Bourne films mixed with Looper as it relies too heavily on the gimmick of Will Smith fighting a younger version of himself. De-aging technology has come a long way in recent years, but it’s still a ways off from it not being a distraction. The younger version of Smith, named Junior, is impressive at a distance or when there’s a lot of motion involved, say during the action sequences, but when he’s talking or there’s a close up of his face on screen he quickly reaches uncanny valley levels of creepy. The fight scenes between the two of them are cool to watch, but the gimmick quickly wears off and you’re left with a disappointing story that doesn’t really do much in the end.
I unfortunately can’t say anything in relation to the high frame rate because the version I saw was in your standard 24fps. Even if you do manage to find one of the 14 theaters that is showing Gemini Man in 120fps, it will still be scaled down from 4K to 2K because projectors just aren’t capable of showing it as it was filmed. At 24fps there was nothing particularly special about it. Sure, some of the scenes seem like they would look cooler at a high frame rate but overall I felt like it was nothing that I absolutely needed to see. Just because the action is smoother doesn’t make the story any better.
Gemini Man has some entertaining elements to it with some great action sequences but does little to make you care about any of the characters outside of both Will Smiths. I would have liked to have seen more of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Danny Zakarweski, the agent put in charge of keeping tabs on Henry before becoming entangled in his assination. Same goes for Benedict Wong and even Clive Owen, who all share a past with Henry that is briefly touched upon. Gemini Man could have delivered an interesting story but instead gets too wrapped up in the technology used to tell it. The film looks cool on screen but won’t leave any lasting impressions in the long run.