mon 18/11/2019

Gemini Man review - high-concept, high-tech Zen weirdness | reviews, news & interviews

Gemini Man review - high-concept, high-tech Zen weirdness

Gemini Man review - high-concept, high-tech Zen weirdness

Ang Lee's baffled action effort, with surplus Will Smiths

Mr and Mr Smith: Will ponders his past

Will Smith’s giant hand looms out of the screen towards you, gripping his gun’s trigger with weird realism. Director Ang Lee’s lonely devotion to filming in 120 frames per second 4K 3D, already widely loathed by audiences in less developed form in his own Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2014) and Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, is a huge, largely successful element in everything we see here.

A script which had gathered dust for 20 years due to being technically unfilmable then sees Smith’s government hitman Henry Brogan forced out of retirement after being betrayed by his boss Clay (Clive Owen), a fellow ex-Marine with a penchant for Francis Bacon. Soon, the fiftysomething star is locked in a duel with his twentysomething doppelganger, secretly cloned by Clay, and a complete digital construction from the motion-captured Smith in reality. Clay is accused of “playing God with DNA”. This wholly digital actor, like the increasingly prevalent de-ageing process is, though, just as philosophically suspect.

Henry Brogan (Will Smith) and Dani (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in Gemini ManLee’s recent obsession with technology - see too The Life of Pi’s cast-protecting CGI tiger – is deep in the fibre of his work here. There’s something weightless about the whole affair, from its shop-worn, antique script and second-hand title to the appealingly breezy acting. Bodies pile up and globetrotting backdrops change, but the cast proceed with Zen evenness. The unnerving novelty of the filming process is all of a piece.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, pictured above right, as FBI agent Dani, who first tails Brogan then sticks by him when both are attacked by Clay’s minions, takes everything in her stride, adding her own implicit intelligence to events which lack them (someone had to spout this scientific assessment of Will Smith-cloning: “It’s complicated – but it’s doable”). Benedict Wong, soon to be seen in Armando Ianucci’s David Copperfield and equally at ease as Brogan’s laidback, Hawaiian-shirted sidekick, is also a reliable pleasure. Smith meanwhile tries to makes you forget Brogan’s unquestioning assassination of 72 people on the hardly reliable orders of the US government, as outsourced to the crazed Clay. He also ensures that, even when fighting Will Smith, Will Smith wins: his ersatz younger self seems more sulky teenager than Fresh Prince, and can’t beat the 51-year-old real thing.  

Clay (Clive Owen) and Junior (Will Smith) in Gemini ManThis is a Jerry Bruckheimer film as much as Lee’s, glorying in its high-concept as the producer has done since Top Gun (it’s no surprise Tom Cruise was once attached to star). The international pit-stops – rural Georgia, Liege, Bogota, Budapest – are pure Bond, the action sequences derivative (an urban bike-chase) and dull (Smith and Smith’s muddled wrestling bouts).

What Lee is seeking here, beyond an HD cinema nirvana few others can so far discern, is to combine a successful blockbuster with an entertaining play of existential ideas. It’s there in Clive Owen’s justification for clone armies – “We can keep the whole world safe without any actual grief” – and the thoughtful pauses for Smith-Smith dialogue. The combination of a fine director, untried technology, clunky script and relaxed cast make Gemini Man a very odd film indeed. The more Lee tries to fit in, the further out he gets.

There’s something weightless about the whole affair, from its shop-worn script to the breezy acting

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.