Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Gemini Man

Game Of Clones

Gemini Man
Directed by Ang Lee
2019 China/USA
UK cinema release print.

Not to be confused with the famous 1976 TV series of the same name, Gemini Man is the latest movie from the great director Ang Lee. It stars the always watchable Will Smith as Henry, the somewhat clichéd figure of a top government assassin who, on retirement, is seen as a ‘loose end’ on a recent job and is being hunted down by a new top government assassin, sent against him by Clive Owen (who is playing the real villain of the movie). The slight novelty is that the man sent to kill Henry is a younger clone of himself, also portrayed in the movie by Mr. Smith, using that de-aging CGI trick that Hollywood have been leaning on of late. Actually, the de-ageing for most of the sequences here doesn’t look half bad (or half as bad as I’ve seen it looking) but, for some reason, the epilogue scene in the movie doesn’t seem to be able to match the earlier stuff at all and, in this last sequence, the clone barely looks like Smith apart from in assorted shots. Don’t know why that is but it’s done well for most of the story so I’m not that bothered.

Ang Lee is a director who seldom disappoints and he’s a bit of a hard one to pin down in terms of a particular cinematic niche. I loved what he did with The Ice Storm and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and, heck, I even liked his version of Hulk which, in some ways, was a bit better than The Incredible Hulk, albeit with a puzzlingly rubbish, metaphorical fight at the end, from what I can remember.

It wouldn’t be fair to say Gemini Man is disappointing, as I’ve heard some people say... it’s entertaining enough and has some nice action sequences and scenes which build a relationship between the various characters (not necessarily what you are thinking). That being said... it’s not entirely unforgettable either and I think the possible problem here is with people’s pre-conceptions of what an Ang Lee’s movie is going to deliver to them. Everybody expects this exceptional artist to do something great with each movie and Gemini Man is not great... but it is very good so why can’t we all just be satisfied with that?

Also, the moral issues, not to mention the relationship issues between certain characters and sheer technical achievements to make this tale come alive are not to be sniffed at. Lee and his team have done some significant work here... I think this one might get some festival revivals a few decades from now.

Asides from the always wonderful Mr. Smith in the movie, we have him joined by Clive Owen, as I mentioned, perhaps somewhat wasted in the most clichéd character of the lot here but, again, always watchable so he certainly doesn’t hurt the film as much as some of the lines written for him.

Then we have one of my favourite modern actresses who I’ve seen in a fair few sci-fi and horror projects, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, playing what I will not refer to here as the love interest of the film, purely because... although a strong bond develops between her and the original template for the clone, Henry... with Will Smith being 51 and her being in her 30s, the writers have been surprisingly respectful of the not so visible age gap between the two, for a Hollywood movie at least (Will Smith always looks perpetually in his late 20s to me). She really knocks it out the park in this film and, thankfully, has a lot to do here rather than just play second fiddle to the male characters. She is the one ‘working things out’ and, also, she has a really great and somewhat brutal fight scene with a henchman that really shows that she can look the part and is capable of being a modern day action hero herself... something which I hope some wiley Hollywood producers will realise when they see this movie and hopefully commission someone to write some big budget action movies built around this actress.

Finally, we have the inclusion of Benedict Wong. I loved him as Wong in Doctor Strange (reviewed here) and Avengers Infinity War (reviewed here) and he’s as charming in this as he is in those. He plays the character the hero always needs from his past to ‘call in a couple of favours’ and he fulfills that role admirably here. A stylish actor with a big personality who I’m hoping we’ll see in a lot more high profile projects in the coming years.

Okay, so the stage is set and the film, as you would expect from Lee, looks fantastic on an aesthetic level. It would be true to say that the whole thing trundles along with no real surprises up its sleeve and that, for me, is a great shame. There are a couple of blisteringly good action sequences here where the sound design really comes into its own and with Lorne Balfe’s score (which I shall order on CD when it’s released tomorrow) keeping up with things nicely although, I really need to hear it as a stand alone because some of it does get a little buried in the mix. Alas, even the third act reveal of ‘someone’ is already something you can kinda see coming a mile off and, honestly, when they deliberately hide a character's face, I don’t know why Hollywood people actually think the audience are going to be in any way remotely surprised as to the identity of the character underneath... it doesn’t makes sense that this is saved as some kind of reveal here.

Also, since the film touches on the manipulation of DNA to edit out the stuff not needed, it never really tackles the issue at the heart of the movie which, in fairness, I only just realised with this particular film... why would you give the clone of Will Smith the same huge, sticky out ears? Honestly, I never noticed this about Will Smith before but they are a quite prominent feature and, unless they give a clone powers of super hearing, why would you leave those in the DNA edit? Oh well, that’s one thing I’ll think about in years to come when I remember this movie, I guess.

At the end of the day, Gemini Man is nothing too special but, it does try to tackle the issues brought up by the plot set-up in an intelligent manner, looks fantastic, has great performances and is a fairly fun time. So if you want something to go and take a look at which is, at the very least, quite entertaining with some intense action sequences and with a strong sense of Smith’s brand of ‘good guy chivalry’ running through it, then you could do a lot worse than give this film some of your time. It’s a pretty okay night out at the cinema... and what’s wrong with that?

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