The first time we see Henry Brogan (Will Smith) while aiming at a supposed terrorist aboard a speeding train, the ashen hairs that populate his buzz cut pop out like a glaring character flaw, a nagging signifier that he should be out playing golf with his other retired buddies instead of being out on a cliff concentrating on a kill.
The first time we see Junior, Brogan’s much younger clone (also played by Smith with the hefty assistance of Hollywood’s special effects wizards), he literally pops into view on the viewfinder of Brogan’s sniper rifle, with his blatantly artificial baby-faced mug conveying one of Gemini Man’s many distracting flaws.
A failed balancing act
From start to finish, Ang Lee’s film imagines itself to be a spectacle with something important to say.
It is a film that attempts to be a balancing act between being a showcase of the amazing technology that allows Will Smith not just to converse with a more boyish version of himself but also to brawl and engage in other physical feats. However, it becomes apparent as the film steers from being a stubborn action flick towards being something supposedly more profound that the film demands so much more than what the technology can provide.
Gemini Man wants its primary special effect to be embroiled in some existential crisis, to cry, to bear a tattered and troubled soul amidst the digitally manufactured creaseless face.
Sadly, the film never makes it feel like anything more than a stunt. The film never makes an effort to differentiate itself from its primary artifice and while there are very interesting ideas thrown into the mix, they never evolve into anything to frame the mostly inert chain of repetitive chases, boisterous brawls and tedious chatter.
Grossly convoluted conceit
Lee is frustratingly oblivious to the entertainment value of the grossly convoluted conceit of his film. More than that, he is absolutely blind to Smith’s trademark charms, essentially turning him into a brooding, forlorn, and worse, humorless antithesis of everything the entertainer once stood for.
Gemini Man mistakes somberness with seriousness.
It has lofty ambitions and desirous to tackle a myriad of relevant and weighty issues but unable to expound because of the necessity of being an action-packed caper that diligently follows genre tropes. There are interesting ideas in the film, such as how it subtly comments on the concept of family with Brogan and Junior’s parentage becoming a running theme or how the extent of patriotism can give birth to monsters.
Clearly, Lee fantasizes that there should be more to his film than its obvious gimmick.
That fantasy, however, dismantles the film’s entertainment value. It is a dreary affair. It is devoid of joy and is totally and unnecessarily miserable.
Gemini Man seeks to top the Bourne films by doubling down on its misused star with the help of computer wizardry but only ends up with two bored identities that fail to intrigue and entertain. —Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ Tirad Pass.
Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.