Gemini Man is a baffling product born from a bizarre idea. The story was conceived in 1997 (Tony Scott was billed to direct) and was tossed between directors and re-assigned lead actors (including Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood) until it landed with Skydance Media in 2016 and Ang Lee signed on to direct in 2017. For Lee, it seems to make sense – the film welds concerns that have colored a number of his projects: the debate of Nature v Nurture; the alienation of a fraying man; the challenge of what digital filmmaking can do. On paper, “Gemini Man” tends to all three concerns, but in practice the film is impenetrable beyond its technological clout.
Smith plays Henry Brogan, a 51-year-old revered government assassin who wants to retire. “Gemini Man” opens with one of Henry’s recent jobs, showing through a viewfinder just how sharp his shot is. As soon as Henry tries to opt out of trouble, trouble comes hunting him around the corner. And with the excruciating detail that the film’s 120-frames-per-second technology prescribes, it’s impossible to ignore just how alarming this new threat is. Henry tells people he’s been avoiding mirrors lately – so naturally, it’s in one that he sees the reflection of his hitman. The film earns its title and central conflict by, 45 minutes in, showing the audience that Henry’s hunter looks just like him.
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