In “Gemini Man” war-weary Will Smith’s retired Master Assassin Henry Brogan battles the younger version of himself, Junior, played by CGI-ed Will, who’s, in fact, his clone.
I’ve trained in Aikido for many years. O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” Director Ang Lee literally and ambitiously navigates O-Sensei’s Mastery journey in unexpected resolve. The distinct upsides: The entertaining screenplay by David Benioff, Billy Ray, and Darren Lemke and the strong compelling Will Smith on both sides of this existential conflict. Amen.
As “Gemini Man” opens Will’s Henry takes aim at his ‘final’ target from 2000 meters out. Henry is the operative for the DIA, a covert US Government Agency sanctioned to terminate terrorist threats. In theory, Henry takes out only bad guys with his sniper rifle or martial arts training. So basically, 51-year-old Henry is a walking weapon, who’s sacrificed having a life, dedicated to serving his country. But is his retirement mission a set-up, a betrayal?
Although David, Billy and Darren’s narrative premise is needlessly convoluted, we get that Henry is a good man, who’s suffered because of his mastery. He wants out. Henry confesses to DIA’s Del, “My soul hurts… I want to find peace.” Henry’s haunted by the ‘ghosts’ of his targets. Will’s authentic remorseful tears land.
Ang Lee’s conspiracy narrative unveils as obsessed Clay Verris, played with duplicitous zeal by Clive Owen, emerges with his proposal to DIA Director Janet Lassiter, played by malleable Linda Emond. Clay operates the clandestine Gemini Project. He wants to use his asset to terminate Henry, who’s become a circumstantial liability. He sends his charge Junior, also played by Will, to kill Henry. By design, Junior is Henry’s younger version sans his past, without his suffering and pain. Thus, superior.
Ang nuances “Gemini Man”‘s ambitious narrative premise: What makes a Good Man? In a flashback, Henry recalls his Dad, played by Diego Adonye, nearly drowning him as a boy to make him strong. Wise foreshadowing. Yet, Ang’s storytelling bewilders: Henry and Junior don’t do the math when they first battle each other. Junior tells Clay, “It’s like he (Henry) knew my every move…” Well, yeah.
The technology astounds when Will fights as both Henry and Junior on screen. Their motorcycle chase is spectacular. As Henry and Junior exchange spinning kicks, elbow strikes and joint locks, you feel the impact. CGI-ed Junior looks cool for the most part. Though near the end, it almost occurs as creepy.
The other distinct upside of “Gemini Man” is strong, pretty, smart Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Danny, the DIA agent ordered to spy on Henry in his supposed retirement. Danny holds her own against anyone. Mary displays amazing Brazilian Jujitsu skills. Her eyes hint that she’s way ahead of the game. Hence, she aligns herself with Henry. Predictably, she’s also Henry’s possible romantic interest.
As Henry, Junior and Mary ride together in a truck, Henry confesses his life’s regrets. Henry sacrificed falling in love, having a wife, having a family, because of the job. Although Junior was designed as the perfect assassin, he ultimately has a choice. Henry tells his younger self, “Everyone deserves a second chance.” Amen.
Really, “Gemini Man” works, because of Will’s authentic humanity. Yeah, Will is mature power and genuine swag. Yet, his vulnerability, his wisdom of being older resonate. We all deserve a second chance to be greater than versions of ourselves.
Just saying. Rather, I believe that’s what “Gemini Man” is saying. “Gemini Man” isn’t perfect. Yet, “Gemini Man” is something special.