A gentleman whose primary skill set was killing people, but is now at retirement age, is put to the test when a younger version of himself is sent to kill him. Now, where have I heard this premise before? Ah, yes, it was with Looper over half a decade ago. You remember Looper, don’t you? Good movie, used makeup to make Joseph Gordon-Levitt look like a young Bruce Willis? Thoughtful, solid action? Time travel? Yeah! Good times. Now we have Gemini Man which is none of those things, and with the addition of 3D and high frame rate (HFR).
Of course, we experimented with both of these things and director Ang Lee a few years ago with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, an apt title for a bore of a movie that everyone has forgotten about except when it comes to conversations about HFR in movies. For those unaware, most movies are presented in 24 frames per second. It’s been the standard for a long time. HFR goes above that—60 or 120, so far—which reduces motion blur, raises sharpness, and looks like a soap opera. TV uses higher frame rates regularly and it takes a while to get used to. It works well for sports, in my opinion, but not so well for drama.
Now we have an action movie called Gemini Man which is probably a better use for the technology than a drama. The action certainly is clear, and Ang Lee hasn’t lost anything as a director, but is it worth it? The HFR 3D presentation costs more money for the consumer, and you’ll get something that doesn’t feel right, since we’re not used to it. And, much like normal 3D, at its best it blends in and you tend not to notice it. If it became the standard it probably wouldn’t hurt, but it’s not an improvement, at least to my eyes.
You’ll have noticed at this point that the movie, Gemini Man, hasn’t factored much into this review. Nor will it in most, I would imagine, given that its presentation and the technology behind it is more interesting to discuss. The film itself, well, if you watch Looper and cut out the time travel, that’s basically what we’ve got here. Instead of makeup, the younger version is a CGI Will Smith (uncanny valley), who also plays our protagonist, Henry Brogan. Brogan was a hitman for the government, got sent to a wrong target, retired, and was considered a loose end, so he had to be put down. But he’s “the best,” so that’s going to prove to be harder than it would initially appear.
Most of the action is solid. Seeing the two Smith characters do battle is fun, and there’s a really great scene midway through involving motorcycles that is stunning. If HFR is ever to catch on, it’s for moments like this one. As mentioned, Lee is a solid director; he’s been let down by scripts lately, but his technical chops are top notch. While Gemini Man‘s screenplay, the story for which was originally conceived in the ’90s, isn’t anything special, the direction is.
Speaking of the screenplay, it gives us a generic lead character in Brogan, who is the “retired but brought back into the fold” stereotype and almost nothing more. He teams up with Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Benedict Wong for most of the movie but they’re not given much to do except assist him; they have barely any characters of their own. There are potentially interesting developments regarding the younger Smith character and the boss of totally-not-evil corporation GEMINI, played by Clive Owen, and the film is at its most engaging when focusing on their relationship. Really, if the film got to the point earlier and allowed various relationships and themes to develop and be explored in more depth for its second half, it might’ve turned out well. As it is, this happens too late in the proceedings to be impactful. Too little, too late.
Gemini Man would likely be forgotten in cinema history, except that it is the best use of the HFR technology we’ve got in a feature film released in theaters, which means it’ll act as an example, for better or worse, until such time that we either improve upon it or do away with it altogether. It works best in the action scenes, which are wonderfully staged, and looks weird all other times. The film itself isn’t boring but it’s bland and lacks anything worth talking about, at least until it’s almost over—at which point it’s too late to redeem itself.
Conclusion: Gemini Man is a forgettable movie whose presentation will keep it relevant until such time that it’s no longer special.
Recommendation: Just (re-) watch Looper.
- Rating - 4/104/10