Mr. and Mr. (and Mr.) Smith
Gemini Man marks the second time director Ang Lee dissected American military ideology. In Billy Lynn, he focused on the post-war, home front experience. In Gemini Man, Lee deals with how to break the national dogma’s shackles.
That’s clever – Will Smith fights his younger, hungrier self. The older Smith “grew a conscious,” and that won’t do for American higher-ups. They send a more obedient, less empathetic younger half to fix this.
The younger Will was raised to kill, under the belief orders always need obeyed – a broken ideal. Gemini Man finds a more interesting character in this younger half, who fights against years of propaganda as truth peels lies away. He represents so many kids drawn to serve, told it’s always right, and killing as commanded. Seeing his expendable status exposed is a crushing, damning indictment on first world conflict.
Gemini Man doesn’t risk much in structural terms
Gemini Man doesn’t risk much in structural terms
When discovered he’s a clone, the older Smith asks why no one cloned scientists or Nelson Mandala. “They can’t shoot like you,” is the response, further feeding into the peacetime vision Lee wants. Gemini Man even finds blame, aiming at broad masculine values when young Smith’s father begins beating Smith for an unwillingness to murder. Empathy, sorrow, and feelings don’t belong in the American way.
Through those ideas, it’s clear why Gemini Man took so long in becoming a finished film. Technology is the forward-facing reason, but finding acceptance for such a critical thrashing needed a different political environment. Even now it’s risky, if less so than in the immediate post-9/11 era.
Under that however is an inherently derivative government-run-amok thriller; the actor-versus-himself angle doesn’t change the interplay of corrupt officials, off-the-books experiments, cover ups, and globe trotting. Gemini Man plays into action cinema cliches – all of them. It’s asking a lot from modern visual effects, inconsistently successful when doing so. Routine chases, shoot-outs, and fist fighting don’t add much either.
But a few thrills ever escape this scenario, mostly around whether Smith – or rather which one – may not see the end. It’s a rare case where the star can potentially perish given there’s another of him. Turns out Gemini Man doesn’t risk much in structural terms. Everything stems from Gemini Man’s thematic angles, and there, Lee merely repeats himself. Aggressively postured dialog makes sure this is clear too, often speaking past characters and to an audience to ensure no misinterpretation. Brandishing a symbolic film takes guts, yet there’s also a need to capture viewers. That doesn’t happen.
On 4K, Gemini Man is available only at 60fps; Paramount offers no alternative other than a 1080p Blu-ray at 24fps. Pushing aside a detailed argument for/against the tech, the resulting images display incredible potency. Texture levels never subside. Close-ups bring reference-tier detail, with definition “better than lifelike” thanks to carefully composed lighting schemes. Scenery from multiple location shoots show how superior 4K is at handling busy wide shots. Precision extends to the horizon, cinematography taking advantage of available resolution.
Marvelous brightness brings richness to fire and sparks. Highlights hit their mark too, but Gemini Man’s greatest Dolby Vision success comes within the black levels. Compare the crypt sequence to see how gorgeously rendered shadows are on UHD. On Blu-ray, they reach a cloudy gray; with HDR, density improves (practically doubling) and depth increases substantially.
While color leans toward warmth to an excess (flesh tones in particular), that does not lessen saturation. Scenes shot in Colombia bring a stellar glow to vivid, intense paint schemes. It’s one notch away from unnatural, yet so vibrant as not to care. Even blue waters hit a pinnacle, so pure as to make real water look boring. The various swimming pools create stellar hues.
Random observation: Hollywood bombast doesn’t match 60fps – where the visual side aims to draw viewers into a reality, the sound intends to keep things traditional. It’s a weird mixture.
Ignoring those quirks, this is A-tier material. The way debris passes from gunfire during the hotel fight is arguably the best example of Atmos yet. Not only does debris fall, it does so with unmatched precision. Gemini Man’s mix isn’t a case of each speaker filling with sound, so much as each speaker being individually considered with different degrees of debris – if a bullet hits on the left, debris falls heavier to that side (plus in the appropriate height), and it’s an audible change.
Action excels at pushing range. Grenades explode, pushing for max impact. A blown up car flips, that rapidly-passing shot using dynamics to their fullest. Inside a hardware store, numerous blasts keep this energy going, creating consistency between major scenes. Note too the hefty impact from punches and kicks, awesome during the catacombs brawl as the echo brings additional power.
On the UHD, a 60fps bonus feature looks at the visual effects from Weta, and no, you cannot possibly know everything they did until seeing this. With a handful of brief two or five minute featurettes (including an Ang Lee hype reel) the good stuff comes via The Future is Now and Setting the Action. Together they make up a half hour, delving into the multiple technical achievements and action composition respectively. Both provide superb insight. An alternate opening and two deleted scenes follow.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
While daring in tackling a core American value, Gemini Man’s script punches too hard and falls to countless thriller cliches in doing so.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 39 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: