“Gemini Man” – (REVIEW) A Summer Popcorn Flick in the Fall

Gemini Man - 2019 - Paramount Pictures
Gemini Man - 9
Gemini Man – 2019 – Paramount Pictures

“GEMINI MAN” starring Will Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is now in theaters. This blockbuster sci-fi adventure is directed by Ang Lee and follows the story of an aging hit-man named Henry. He’s attempting to retire but soon finds himself the target of another skilled, young hit-man. But not just any. This killer tracking Henry down is his younger clone. One he knew nothing about which will send Henry on a mission for answers. This movie has been in various stages of development for a couple of decades now. The technology simply wasn’t there in the past allowing it to move forward, so it never got off the ground.

Names like Johnny Depp, Clint Eastwood, Nicolas Cage, and Mel Gibson over the years have been attached at one time or another but it never happened. Thus, we get Will Smith in the lead. Whom to be honest, I think was the best choice for this role. Not only does Smith prove he can still carry a blockbuster action movie. He also showcases that known range in his personality which was able to fill two different characters within this single story-line. I didn’t have the highest of expectations for this movie to be honest, despite loving both action and science-fiction movies. For some reason the October release date felt off to me, as if there wasn’t much studio confidence in the project to give it a proper summer release.

But then it dawned on me that this summer was monopolized by Disney projects and that a window of opportunity possibly never presented itself. So I was interested, and with the trailers showcasing revolutionary special-effects, and tons of action-sequences, I had some modest hope for a fall action-adventure filled with spectacle and that’s exactly what this movie gave me. Admittedly the story is the weakest part of the movie. There are gaps in logic. A handful of conveniences to move things forward and set-up certain scenarios. As well as bouts of exposition, with sections of the progression being glossed over a tad. But there is more than enough meat to the script to provide character and overall story development. This give the visual-effects and action set-pieces weight and intensity that naturally makes them more engaging.

GEMINI MAN
Gemini Man – 2019 – Paramount Pictures

The performances are great therefore you can care about the characters. The action is frequent and the issues with the story don’t get in the way of this movie being a great time on the big-screen. It doesn’t give off the impression of being a story that needs to be nitpicked. It’s a movie about a hit-man, fighting the younger clone of himself. That should tell you that much will be taken with a grain of salt. Both of the Smiths have their superhuman moments in this movie. Much like the invulnerability of Johnson and Statham in “Hobbs & Shaw” but the result was a string of adrenaline pumping action-sequences. So, who cares if the story is a little thin in cohesiveness, and some suspension-of-disbelief is required?

This is a summer popcorn movie and a damn good one. So don’t let the fall release date fool you. Smith isn’t aiming for an Oscar with this performance, he is aiming to deliver a range of over-the-top action entertainment and he succeeds. There is a collection of great fight scenes, shootouts, and a couple of excellent chase-sequences that were excellently captured by Ang Lee’s direction and the cinematography from Dion Beebe. The camerawork during the action was fluid and smooth with appealing longer takes. The rapid editing and shaky-cam techniques are all but removed, and it results in some visceral action that put a smile on my face. The story may have its issues. But there are plenty of other great elements to make up for it.

This movie isn’t setting out to be something like “Interstellar.” As much as it feels in line with something like the classic Arnold actioner “The 6th Day” in terms of focusing on the action extravaganza and stylizing. The script takes a simple hit-man concept and weaves it into a science-fiction narrative, and it was a wild ride. There are plenty of vibrant international locations that create rich backdrops for the action. And with the cast putting in plenty of effort with the stunt-work, the blending of practical and digital effects was awesome.

Gemini Man - 1
Gemini Man – 2019 – Paramount Pictures

Will Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are thrown into the middle of many tense sequences and the camerawork effectively pulled me into the chaos with them. Something you absolutely want from a movie like this. However, I felt they also brought great performances on the acting side to bring life to their characters. Their chemistry with one another felt natural and the story never forced their dynamic which made them feel more like real people. Winstead has a charm that easily makes her likable. She was tough, smart, and despite Smith carrying the film, I think she was able to leave her own impression by adding a lot of layering to the role.

Will Smith was fantastic. Both versions of him I guess you could say. There was more time spent on current age Smith allowing him to do what he does best, carry a film with his screen presence alone. He brought a ton of emotion to the part, some of his charm, and plenty of physical effort to sell himself as a highly skilled hit-man that was calling it a wrap and retire. Sure, Smith feels like Smith at times with some of his mannerisms. But this wasn’t a character dive. An action-movie lead with charisma was needed and he delivered just that. Then as the younger, cloned version of the character, Smith through his motion-capture performance really brought a lot of emotional energy. This clone has the largest swing in terms of character-arcs with the amount of self-discovery he experiences, and I felt Smith layered the dramatic intensity nicely. It was more than enough to build the foundation for the character so the effects team to do the rest.

The visual appearance of the younger Will Smith will the talking-point for this movie and overall, I would say it was a success. It wasn’t perfect, but with the degree of difficulty, and what they did with the character in the story, credit must be given for creating a lifelike representation of a 20’s Will Smith. Many of the shots are stunning and simply look amazing. Then there are some that do not. I actually think the close-up viewpoints were the most detailed. Seeing the tears on his face and the small mannerisms is impressive. The more distant shots were a little distracting in places and noticeable as being CG.

Yet, overall the special-effects and what they pulled off in creating this character was amazing. It allowed this movie to feel unique, fresh, and unpredictable despite its shortcomings on the writing side. I did however have a great time with this movie, and it was able to keep my attention from start-to-finish. In this era of everything feeling like something else, this movie felt like its own thing. It was ambitious and artistic in its styling. It creates a great atmosphere for a sci-fi adventure that will give you some laughs, have you on edge with plenty of action, and engage your interest with strong character performances. And if the option of seeing this movie on the big-screen presents itself, certainly check it out and enjoy the ride.

GRADE: 85%


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