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Gemini Man forsakes a good story for effects

2019-10-10 12:07

Gemini Man uses fancy effects to bring us a younger Will Smith, but the writing is a bit archaic, in Phumlani S Langa's opinion. 

Gemini Man
Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Will Smith, Clive Owen
. . - - -

Will Smith has had an incredibly busy year. Apart from joining social media platform TikTok recently, he somewhat redeemed the underwhelming live-action Aladdin, launched his own YouTube channel – which already has about 6.8 million subscribers – voices a lead character in animation Spies in Disguise coming out later this year, and even narrated the acclaimed National Geographic documentary, One Strange Rock.

Friday was the opening of his latest sci-fi thriller, Gemini Man. In it, Smith plays Henry Brogan, a soldier used for special operations as a skilled sniper.

In the opening scene, with the help of a spotter, he shoots a man in a speed train from what must be a few kilometres away. This marks 72 kills for him and he’s now looking for a life beyond the rifle scope, one of peace and calmness.

But the kill on the train was tampered with. The file with this person’s name had been doctored to show that the elderly man was a terrorist to be extinguished. He was, in actual fact, a scientist.

The film takes on an espionage feel with black binders being read by smartly dressed white folk in trench coats, sitting on benches.

It is a bit like a Bourne movie but with a black guy who has all his memories.A few complications arise and Henry’s handlers turn on him. They want him gone and they send the perfect assassin for the job – a younger version of himself.

Director Ang Lee is probably best known for his work on the absolute cinematic gem Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

If we took that and held it against this we would conclude that this man has fallen all the way off.Nevertheless, Gemini Man has its moments. There is a motorbike chase and combat sequence that’s almost as inspired as some of what we saw in Crouching Tiger.

While it praised the “youthification” technique used on Smith’s younger doppelgänger, The Guardian didn’t like the digital effects used in the film.

“The technical effect of the film is strange ... Lee is shooting in high frame-rate, which creates a new pin-sharp clarity but at the expense of making the film look like video – or like a celluloid movie on a plasma TV when you haven’t deactivated motion-smoothing.”

That isn’t a terrible observation.

It seems like Lee put all his focus, and budget, on presenting the younger Smith as the main drawing card of this feature.

But the overall shots selected for the film are pedestrian at best. Gemini Man’s overall look is blatantly synthetic, but not more so than techniques like shooting dry for wet as they did for films like Aquaman.

In my opinion, directors are forgetting the concept that the story is integral to a good film.

Audiences are getting wiser to the tricks used and the envelope will have to be pushed even further by film creators everywhere, in order to do this.

This doesn’t make the fake stuff look more real. This could be done with a steely approach to writing. Remember that age-old practice? Stop sleeping on that.

You may recall a small cult classic about a gang of robbers, which took place in two rooms at an abandoned reservoir. Lee would do well to look back and make certain that the scripts he chooses to bring to life are as sharp as the Green Destiny sword in Crouching Tiger.

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December 15 2019