This is a film where I was more interested in the experience of seeing it rather than the plot. Whilst the idea of a hitman facing off against a younger version of himself is interesting (and done much better in Rian Johnson’s Looper), the trailers made it look pretty generic, with the only reasons I was interested to see it being that it was directed by Ang Lee and that it was shot in a high frame rate. Whilst the film was shot at 120 FPS, since no cinemas in the UK are equipped for that frame rate, I saw it at 60 FPS and honestly, outside of the novelty of the frame rate, there’s nothing special about the film.
The film follows Henry Brogan, a government assassin considered the best at his job, on the verge of retirement. When he finds out that his last job related to someone who had links to a secret private military project and was not a terrorist as Henry assumed. To tie up loose ends, Henry’s agency goes after him, with one of their agents tasked with monitoring Henry whilst he retires, Danny, being targeted as well. When initial efforts to kill Henry fail, the private military firm GEMINI is brought in (after wanting to kill Henry first), with the operative sent after Henry revealed to be a clone of Henry, named Junior, with Henry trying to get Junior to stop hunting him and take down GEMINI. Now the plot of the film is nothing special. Everything in the script is insanely obvious and there isn’t anything new to the table. All of the stereotypical elements you think of when you think of stories about an aged hitman wanting to retire are represented here, and there isn’t a new spin put on them to make the film feel unique. Even the element of a younger clone isn’t developed enough in the plot, with the writing for the characters being incredibly bland. I haven’t mentioned it earlier but one of my worries for the film was the writing due to one of the credited writers being David Benioff after how bad season 8 of Game of Thrones was and at least here the writing was bland rather than infuriating (go watch Lindsay Ellis’ videos on Game of Thrones for a better understanding of why).
The performances as well add to the overall bland feeling of the film. None of them are particularly bad, with Will Smith doing decent work as Henry and Junior, Mary Elizabeth Winstead trying to make Danny a character and Clive Owen trying to make his character a twisted father figure, but the script is so generic that Owen’s performance can’t help but feel generic. The only life that comes into the film comes from Benedict Wong who is a lot of fun as a former colleague of Henry’s. Sure, his character doesn’t have any development, or any actually defined character, but Wong is so entertaining that you don’t really think about that.
The technical side of the film is where the film gets interesting, mainly with the high frame rate. Now I wasn’t a fan of the high frame rate used for The Hobbit trilogy as I found it to make everything look too artificial and I could see the green screen and make-up effects in a way that made them look unnatural. The technology for higher frame rates has improved since The Hobbit, but it still isn’t perfect. When it works, the image quality is excellent and it stops the 3D light loss effect from being too pronounced but when it doesn’t, the CG can look a bit too obvious and you can tell the moments where green screen was used. The big issue for me though is that I got a headache whilst watching the film and it’s not due solely to the 3D used. I’ve seen other films in IMAX 3D recently (those being Avengers: Endgame and Godzilla: King of the Monsters) and I didn’t get a headache during those, but here, where the higher frame rate was more obvious, I did get a headache and I think it had to have been due to the way my brain processed the higher frame rate.
The de-ageing effects meanwhile are also a mixed bag. When the film focuses on wide shots and seeing Junior from a distance, the deaging effects are great but when it’s close up it’s more varied. I think it works for the most part, but every now and then there are little blips that make the effect look a bit too obvious, mainly with the way the lower jaw moves. Still, this is some of the best de-ageing seen in a film so far. The rest of the technical elements of the film though are surprisingly generic. There’s nothing here I found really special in the action scenes, they’re competently shot, but for Ang Lee I kind of expected something more special, although I guess the action scenes had to be arranged that way to work for the higher frame rate, even though the explosions in these scenes look too staged at a higher frame rate.
Overall, Gemini Man isn’t a bad film but it is an incredible generic and boring film. There’s nothing here to set it apart from any other film about an aged hitman, even with the clone subplot. It’s clear that the technical elements of the film, mainly the de-ageing and the higher frame rate, but the technological achievements are not enough to make up for a boring story, especially where these advances physically detracted from my experience.
My Rating: 2/5