Review: Gemini Man (2019)

Film canister
In Gemini Man, we meet a 50-year-old assassin who is retiring. Henry Brogan (Will Smith) starts the movie carrying out an astounding assassination on a train. After his retirement, strike teams attack him to “tie up loose ends.” The Gemini company attempts to kill Brogan, but he foils their plans. Brogan has an almost mystical level of vigilance that lets him escape. His gun acts with unbelievable precision. Without Brogan’s perfection as an assassin, the secret agencies would have been able to kill him.

On a fantasy/realism scale, Gemini Man takes a different turn than many movies. Commonly, a film tries to have realistic people who have physical fights that don’t injure the film’s heroes. In contrast, Gemini Man has heroes rooted in fantasy, possessing amazing skills and sketchbook characters. This film aspires to realism by showing real injuries after its knock-down fights. Smith and his allies undergo sutures and clean their wounds after the fights.

After the strike team fails, a mysterious figure comes to kill Brogan. That man is quickly revealed to be a clone of Brogan, 25 years younger. After their initial gunfight and chase, Brogan learns that the attacker is genetically identical to himself. Gemini had created the clone, Junior, to build a perfect soldier.

Gemini Man has successfully simulated a younger Will Smith with computer modeling. Junior is indistinguishable from a 25 years younger Will Smith. It’s commonplace to make an actor look older, but Gemini Man’s filmmakers worked hard at renewing the youth that Smith once had.

One conceit in the movie is that the genetic duplication of the character leads to identical struggles, weaknesses and attitudes. It works ok for making the plot flow, but it is another way the film is filled with caricatures.

Gemini Man was an average quality action movie. I went mainly to see the cloned Will Smith. It was an entertaining movie and left me with a positive feeling as I was leaving the cinema.

Passengers (2016)

Two wine glasses making a toast
In Passengers, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) has an impossible problem. He’s on a 120-year trip to colonize the planet Homestead II. He’s supposed to be in suspended animation for the trip but wakes up 90 years too early. Not good. He can’t be suspended again. Even less good.

He searches for help but finds none. He spends over a year solo on the Avalon. He tries to keep himself occupied, but eventually reaches his limit. He falls in love with a suspended woman and wakes her up, condemning her to never start the life she had planned.

After traveling for 30 years, the Avalon is moving at half the speed of light. It has a shield in front of it, but it isn’t impenetrable. Unbeknownst to Preston, the ship was critically damaged before he wakes up. It’s up to Preston and his victim, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), to fix it.

The Avalon is really beautiful. Graceful, delicate and vast. It is a good backdrop to this lonely love story.

Arrival

clapboardThis week, I was impressed by the movie Arrival (2016), directed by Denis Villeneuve.

There can be different essences that permeate a movie. One builds an adrenaline rush as the winners conquer their foes. Another thrills the audience with fear and suspense. Others gush with emotions like pathos or euphoria. Further movies purpose is to misdirect and then surprise the audience.

I don’t think Arrival fits neatly into those categories–it comes closest to the misdirect & surprise-the-audience theme. However, mostly, it gave me reasons to think. The movie didn’t feel like an attempt to market products to me–I didn’t even notice who manufactured the computers that were everywhere. It only asked me to spend time engaged with the story and to think about the human experience.

Once I watched the extra features on the disk, I saw attributes that make me appreciate the film more. Those nuances weren’t overwhelming. On first viewing, they didn’t draw me away from my embedding in the creators’ imagination and my suspension of disbelief.

The essence of my review is that am glad that I saw the movie.

Another dimension of success for the movie is that I am interested in seeing more movies by director Denis Villeneuve or with actress Amy Adams, who played the protagonist Louise Banks. Thanks to IMDB, that’s a lot easier than it was 40 years ago.

As a side note, one of the final credits thanks Stephen Wolfram. He is the creator of the tool Mathematica and the web site wolframalpha.com. I doubt that he remembers me, but about 30 years ago I visited his research lab in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois which was an exciting experience.