Reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
Aging / mid-life crisis
Wisdom that should come with age
Leaders who play God with people’s lives
Assassins who work for governments
Honorable partnership that earns respect
Treating women respectfully
Developing good manners, humility and apologizing for your wrongs
Cloning: Right or wrong? Answer
Valuing marriage and having children as one of the greatest opportunities in life
Will Smith … Henry Brogan / Junior
Clive Owen … Clay Verris
Mary Elizabeth Winstead … Danny Zakarweski
Benedict Wong … Baron
Douglas Hodge … Jack Willis
Theodora Miranne … Kitty
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Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Fosun Group Forever Pictures [China]
Alibaba Pictures [China]
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Paramount Pictures Corporation, a subsidiary Viacom
“Deep down it’s like my soul is hurt. I just want some peace.”
Imagine seeing this phrase on an elite sniper’s application for retirement. Bizarre? Yet this is how Henry explains the frustration to his boss. Here starts the unlikely story of Henry Brogan (Will Smith) a middle-aged man who suddenly has to face his aging, regrets, fractured identity and deferred family values… yet whose complicated fame won’t let him rest.
Trying to break from his high-level job, but betrayed by his superiors, Henry along with his new friend Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), finds that he must now run from the government, trying to work out the problem and its solution. From Belgium to Georgia to Columbia, Hungary and a jet; they hide and pursue, seeking to understand and stop their enemy—head of the clandestine Gemini unit, who has, without permission, been ‘playing God’ with the genetics of the world’s greatest assassin.
There’s much to be said about how this film has been put together. Overall, it’s a little lacking, which is quite a surprise since both Ang Lee and Jerry Bruckheimer are involved. And choosing how many moviemaking stars out of five is tricky this time, because the standard is inconsistent. But we’re more concerned with the moral qualities than the polish, anyway.
Here are some of the disappointing aspects. The soundtrack is suitably bittersweet, but also dull. There are several laughably unconvincing scenes where special effects are used or misused. And most distracting are the big problems with the finishing, as they’ve tried to alter Will Smith’s face too much in order to play two distant life stages of the same (at least genetically) person. The airbrushing and askew facial features leave Junior looking like an android. Therefore, I believe it’d be more enjoyable to see “Gemini Man” on the small screen. But I must admit that none of these issues are quite as bad as secular critics have made out.
On the positive side, the film offers viewers travel to several countries, a fun chase scene, great warmth and platonic chemistry between the two heroes, some excellent acting across the board and several clever effects, such as use of fish-eye for the sudden passing of a bullet train. The dread and gore are minimal, and respectful restraint has been used for how most deaths occur. The tale has good pacing and balance, so it doesn’t drag—I was surprised to learn afterward that its length is about two hours.
Like most action films, ‘Gemini Man’ has a significant amount of violence, lawbreaking, adult themes and bad language. There is some dread, shocks, and many potentially triggering aspects for those who may have been in the military or are experiencing mid-life crises of some kind. The main character is a professional killer (for the ‘good’ side, of course) who already has at least 72 kills on his shoulders, with at least another dozen added before the closing credits. The villains are either thoroughly cognizant and evil, or confused pawns. Their sins are condemned, though.
The violence, crimes and adult themes include: • drowning • desecrated mass tomb • snipers • riot squad • war zone training • shootouts • taser • grenade • death threats • stalking/surveillance • fall from height • variety of high-powered firearms • violent struggle with head slammed into items • teeth-pulling torture (implied) • bound with ropes and gag • off-book kidnappings, etc • theft of vehicle • reckless motorcycling without protective gear • vandalism • planning of a cover-up • ‘collateral damage’ murder • lack of consideration for police • knife skirmish • impersonation of officers • embedded shrapnel • baiting • human skulls and bones • trip wires and explosives • cave-in • ambush • hand-to-hand combat • flare • bullet to arm • deliberate triggering of anaphylactic episode • car rides without seatbelts • sentry laser gun • secret microchipping • rocket launcher • strangulation • gushing bullet-wound and tourniquet • ax • war veteran suicide references • parenticide attempt
Despite all this, I left the cinema feeling that it had been well handled, interesting and focused on the story, not glorifying violence.
The sex references (mild), nudity (to underwear, swimsuits or bikini—non-sexual situations) and crudity are far less than in many comparable films, but still significant. A woman is told to strip, then is slowly checked for wires. It’s done dispassionately, but still involves seeing a woman being touched while wearing only her underwear. One of Henry’s mates is womanizing while married. Another man kisses a luxury vehicle, speaking to it like a lover.
Some quite healthy attitudes permeate the film, too. Henry strives to be a moral person, though he’s clearly imperfect and has regrets. His grim job is with the motivation of preventing unnecessary wars. He has great manners and apologizes in more than a few touching moments. It is suggested that Henry has noble intentions in relationships, too, and treats all women respectfully—except for the one he says he’ll gladly murder! He is troubled by those survivors hurt by his kills and worries about whether some of the hits may have been wrong, though he was just following government orders.
Henry also clearly values marriage and having children as one of the greatest opportunities in life, a deeper longing than the money, travel, vices and career ambitions that usually get mentioned. Also, he staunchly refuses the idea of ‘playing God’ as an evil, even if it temptingly promises to lessen the chance of others having to suffer from the same ‘ghosts’ as he is.
Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is also an overwhelmingly decent presence and influence, except for an extraction of both information and teeth from one of the bad guys, as part of her professional role. She shows a great trusting partnership with Henry and earns respect.
Meanwhile, interesting quotes from other main characters present conflicting perspectives of the human conscience. Some deplore it as a weakness and liability, while others cling to it as a valuable instinct and counterbalance, something that can be strengthened with aging’s wisdom rather than seared, if a person lives well. Overall, the contention is that though at times we may struggle to look in the mirror and face our past, when we are able to do so and honestly make peace with our being ‘not okay,’ hurt and permanently damaged, then we may be able to start loving ourselves a whole lot better.
Though there’s no specific references to religion, occult or spirituality, existential and identity issues are discussed, and of course conscience. The “Gemini” name doesn’t seem to be an attempt to introduce astrology or ancient zodiac ideas—it’s merely an organization’s name referring to twins. The main presence of evil in the film, therefore, is from the wicked and corrupt leaders, and misuse of the Lord’s name on a handful of occasions.
Other themes include human cloning to create less-flawed ‘superhumans;’ the politics of warfare and the pain of experiencing little unconditional love. But most weighty of the themes is Henry’s internal battle over his age and weariness.
While Henry wrestles with his past, present state, future and ‘offspring,’ he reflects on decisions and sacrifices that have caused harm. Yet when he ponders the concept of a younger version of himself who hasn’t suffered all his pains, he still concludes, “There’s no perfect version of you or me or anybody,” and that a person with weaknesses is just as valuable as one with less genetic or personality flaws.
The Bible’s response to the difficulties of aging, traumatic residue and regrets is that in Christ we can find completion. Life is messy but well planned by the Lord to develop each of us throughout the journey. He teaches us about our sin and imperfections. He introduces us to His rescue plan for mankind, which involves the gentle and heart-strong Son of God, better than an elite fighter or worldly superhero. And He transforms and sanctifies us to shed the burden of our sin and shame. God in His sovereignty can use each experience and even each weakness to craft a ‘new me’ quite different and which we’re much happier with, because He has fully forgiven us and wiped our slate clean. So, let’s not be troubled by our frailties and sadness, because each day can be another step closer to our Lord and the deep peace He offers.
“Gemini Man” is a grown up’s tale, sad, but refreshingly devoid of the ferocious, vile and self-indulgent living that are so often in action flicks because they appeal to angry young people. It may suit the average middle-aged Christian better than most of today’s action flicks. Teens and young adults might not relate to its themes so much, but may respect its classic feel. The special effects better suit a small screen. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience and appreciated its subject matter. Morally it is not too bad, except for the misuses of the Lord’s name and a typically heavy list of casualties…
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.