Clone films are a favorite genre of mine. Any film that features an actor competing with their clone, I love. It’s a great comedic device, as in Multiplicity, and even better as an action thriller device, as in Double Impact (okay, technically that’s a twin movie and not about clones but let’s let it slide because it’s a great movie). There’s something so stupidly entertaining about a big name actor fighting themselves. With this in mind I strapped in for a screening of the latest Ang Lee action epic GEMINI MAN, starring Will Smith as the Gemini Man himself.
Prior to setting foot in the theater, I was aware of the film’s mostly lukewarm reception thus far, but I figured I’d give it a chance given that Will Smith is such a top-notch actor, and Ang Lee is known to be a master of strikingly gorgeous visuals. I was mostly curious about the film’s technological achievements, as it lays claim to one of the most impressive computer generated renderings of an actor ever put on the big screen, and was shot in lightning-speed 120 frames per second. But let’s not forget the true heart of this whole ordeal: clones. I love clones! It’s a fun plot device that never gets old for me, and who doesn’t want to see Will Smith duke it out with himself as he appeared on the classic 90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Throughout the film I couldn’t escape a wild fan conspiracy theory brewing in my head that somehow the clone in the film wasn’t just any clone, but a time traveling version of Will Smith from the 90s—but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about the plot.
GEMINI MAN tells the story of Henry Brogan (Will Smith), a gun-for-hire agent working for the American government. Henry is the best at what he does, possessing other-wordly skills when it comes to executing assassinations. This makes him one of the government’s most valuable assets. Henry is getting old, however, and is growing tired of his bad-guy-killing days. He’s planning to retire and be done with the whole business for good, until his entire life is upended seemingly overnight. After meeting with an old friend and fellow agent, Henry begins to discover he’s been deceived by the agency he’s working for. His most recent target, who he believed to be a global terrorist, is revealed to be an innocent man in reality. Disturbed by this discovery, Henry begins to question the motives of his employers. At the same time, Henry’s boss Janet Lassiter (Linda Emond) plans to have him killed as a result of Henry’s knowledge of the situation. Lassiter is working closely with a private military operative named Clay Varis (Clive Owen), who owns and operates the mysterious GEMINI corporation. GEMINI trains and deploys privately hired elite assassins, working closely with the official government and aiding them in their militant needs. Clay wants to go after Henry using his own forces, but at first Lassiter is hesitant to comply. Eventually she gives in, and Clay begins hunting Henry. After Henry discovers the government had sent in a special agent to tail him named Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), she gets caught up in the whole debacle as well, because of course she does!
What Henry doesn’t know, is that Clay is holding the ace of all aces up his sleeve—90s Will Smith, or Clone Smith as we’ll call him for posterity. The whole idea is that Henry is the best assassin of all time, so Clive Owen wants to clone him so he can have an army of Will Smiths. When Henry easily disposes of the regular agents sent in to kill him, Clay is left with no other choice than to deploy CLONE SMITH! This is where the film really ramps up, with some high-octane action and crazy fight choreography. Clone Smith is as tough as Henry, and arguably faster since he’s also like, half his age. The action sequences are where GEMINI MAN really shines. The action is fast-paced and crystal clear thanks to the accelerated frame rate. This genuinely feels like the future of action cinema, and as a technological achievement, GEMINI MAN is highly successful. The CGI rendering of Clone Smith is easily the best I’ve ever seen in a film. It’s a shockingly convincing visual effect, and the film is worth seeing for these elements alone. The plot itself is pretty run-of-the-mill spy stuff, but that’s not necessarily the point of an experiment like this. The visuals during the action sequences are as stunning and breathtaking as ever—Ang Lee still very much knows how to stage and capture action. Will Smith is brilliant, as always, though he does seem occasionally bored with the role. The film shines the most when Smith is put in the same space as himself. The fight scene in which Clone Smith attempts to kill Will Smith with a motorcycle is definitely the highlight for me. I only wish there had been more action in the film, and I felt it got slightly bogged down with silly things like plot and character moments.
Like so many clone classics before it, GEMINI MAN delivers on the sweet, savory, identical person action. I could have done with more clone references and humor, however. I kept waiting for something to say “Quit cloning around!” or like, a scene in which Will Smith took a pause from fighting himself to say “Damn, I’m good!” Sadly, these opportunities were missed in favor of a more grounded and serious tone. If you like clone movies, and you like big budget entertainment that dares to experiment a little, then you’ll likely enjoy GEMINI MAN. It’s a fun technological experiment that succeeds in its primary mission of displaying a photorealistic clone of a famous actor we all know and love. To top things off, I’ve decided to pay tribute to the film by rewriting the Fresh Prince title rap with clone-themed lyrics. So here it is for you to enjoy:
Now, this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I was almost killed by myself
In a government facility born and raised
In the clone lab is where I spent most of my days
Chillin out, maxing, relaxing all cool,
Shootin some government targets designated by my handlers…
When a crazy cool guy, that looked just like me,
Started trying to kill me with a motorcycle
I got in one little fight and Clive Owen got scared
He said, “You’re going overseas to kill your clone parent”
(skipping ahead here ‘cos this song is way longer than I realized)
I whistled for a cab and when it came near
The license plate said GEMINI and it had a clone in the mirror
If anything I could say that I was half grown
But I thought ‘Nah, forget it’ – “Yo, homes I’m a clone!”
I pulled up to myself about seven or eight
And I yelled to the cabbie “Yo clone smell ya later’”
I looked at my clone parent, I was finally there
To kill my future self, or to become his surrogate son.
*special thanks to Nick Snow for providing some brilliant lyrics
GEMINI MAN arrives in theaters October 11, 2019.