MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
If you wonder sometimes if technology has changed the kinds of films that are made, consider the career of director Ang Lee. For a couple of decades, he was considered a filmmaker who focused on stories driven by the relationships between people. His films include Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, and The Ice Storm. Then Lee became interested in the possibilities of computer-created images. Life of Pi featured a starring role for a CGI tiger (as well as dozens of other zoo animals) and then Lee moved on to filming in High Frame Rate (or HFR) for Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk. This process uses twice the number of images per second than standard video; instead of 24fps, HFR uses 48fps. This produces an image that resembles TV soap operas or live television. When used with 3D (as Peter Jackson did with The Hobbit), the effect is either stunning or irritating. Gemini Man was filmed with 120 frames per second. (Only 12 theaters in the United States are able to show it in this high-speed format; I saw it in 48fps 3D HFR).
Why am I boring you with all of this tech talk? Simply because Gemini Man works best as a demonstration film for HFR. Most of the movie is shot from a first-person point of view, providing the viewer with the perspective of a first-person shooter video game. A high-speed motorcycle chase through the streets of Cartagena, Columbia is a stunner, and computer effects are seamlessly woven into the action sequences, moving them beyond the standard yawn-inducing cartoon CGI that is the standard.
The plot of the film is another thing. Will Smith plays Henry Brogan, a hired assassin working for an intelligence agency. With 72 confirmed kills on his resume (including an almost-botched hit firing through the window of a speeding bullet train), Henry decides to retire. He’s beginning to have remorse about his job, anyway. But there are people in his profession who believe that he knows too much and must be eliminated (although Henry really doesn’t know that much and shows no sign of any further meddling). The assassin staking Henry looks quite a bit like Henry did 25 years ago. Send in the clone. Brogan has two sidekicks – Danny (Winstead), a confident spy, and Baron (Benedict Wong), a happy-go-lucky pilot. With Clive Owen as the villain, the film is stacked with a great cast who do their best to distract the viewer from the silliness of the script. Will Smith plays both versions of himself (“Junior” incorporates a computer-generated face), literally doing what my mother told me not to do when feeling defeated – “Don’t beat yourself up!”
To its credit, Gemini Man argues that a) assassinating people is a bad thing; b) be careful when cloning; and c) you don’t have to feel trapped by the genetic code you inherit at birth. In spite of its limitations, I enjoyed Gemini Man quite a bit. But then, my I.Q. isn’t as high as it was when I was 25.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Two halos: An entertaining but dim-witted effects-driven action film.
One pitchfork: Occasional swearing; a brief glance at a disrobed woman; the actual disrobing of a woman.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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